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Hyperion Records

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The Herbert Howells Memorial Window, Gloucester Cathedral (1992) by Caroline Swash (b1941)
Photograph by Angelo Hornak, by permission of Gloucester Cathedral
Track(s) taken from CDA67914
Recording details: July 2011
Ely Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: April 2012
Total duration: 20 minutes 18 seconds

'The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge is ideally pure and full in tone. The grand hymns and canticles are extroverted and focused, the intimate supplications such as Take him, earth sung with great poise … in a recital of many highlights, I have returned again and again to the St Paul's Nunc dimittis: spaciously paced and … directed towards a ritardando of almighty breadth … this is a perfect disc of its kind' (Gramophone)

'This is a fine progamme for Howells fans … Layton elicits a gentleness of tone from sopranos which casts such muscular writing as found in Take him, earth, for cherishing in a new, mature light' (Choir & Organ)

'The tonal blend drawn from the choir by conductor Stephen Layton, suffused by the acoustic of the Lady Chapel in Ely Cathedral, is glowing … in tutti sections, the clear, youthful timbre of the Trinity choir … intensifies the sense of loss that permeates Howells's composition. It's as though a sad tale is rendered somehow sadder when recited by the voice of fresh, untarnished innocence … a superb one-stop introduction to Howells's choral music' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Howells's two Services for Gloucester and St Paul's Cathedrals magnificently exploit ecclesiastical acoustics while bringing to the canticle text a fluid lyrical gift, an imaginative harmonic spectrum and a sense of occasion … Trinity College Cambridge brings clarity of words and superb singing' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Trinity finds the heart of this work and gives a strong, committed reading' (International Record Review)

'Serenly beautiful … Layton's performances have exactly the poise and careful moudling that this rather fragile, deeply felt music needs' (The Guardian)

'A glorious celebration of Howells' sacred output, creating a highly sympathetic musical picture of a composer deeply affected by death (three of the works on this disc are linked in some way to his son), but also capable of much joy. Gorgeously sung throughout, this is repertoire perfectly suited to Trinity Choir's pure, chorister-like sound' (bbc.co.uk)

Requiem
composer
1932; not released for publication until 1980
author of text
texts from the Burial Service in the Book of Common Prayer, the Requiem Mass, and the Psalms

Other recordings available for download
Corydon Singers, Matthew Best (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Not released for publication until 1980, the Requiem for unaccompanied voices, an exquisite and deeply personal expression of loss in which appears much of the material that was eventually to be expanded and reworked into Hymnus Paradisi, was initially thought to be a first draft of that work, composed soon after Michael Howells’ death in 1935. However, the researches of Howells’ biographer Christopher Palmer soon revealed that the Requiem was in fact composed in 1932, some three years before Michael died, and was modelled on a little-known work, A short Requiem in D major composed in 1915 by Walford Davies, one of Howells’ earliest teachers at the Royal College of Music, in memory of those killed in the war. Howells drew on this work first of all for its selection and ordering of texts, which he adopted almost without change. The only difference is that Davies set Psalm 130 where Howells has Psalm 23. It is an unconventional and original structure drawing on the Burial Service in the Book of Common Prayer, the Latin Requiem Mass, and the Psalms. But Davies’ work was more than just a template for the words. The musical structure of both works is very similar. Both composers set ‘Salvator mundi’, ‘Requiem aeternam (I) and (II)’ and ‘Audi vocem’ (‘I heard a voice from heaven’) in a more extended and complex way than the Psalms, which Davies sets to Anglican chants of his own composing, and Howells to simpler, more syllabic music. Similarities also extend to the structure of phrases and verbal rhythm, most markedly in ‘I heard a voice from heaven’, where the rhythm of Howells’s opening tenor solo matches almost exactly that of Davies’ baritone in ‘Audi vocem’. But these similarities are of course superficial. Howells may have had Walford Davies’ work in front of him as he planned his own Requiem, but Davies’ workmanlike music is transmuted into pure Howellsian gold. This is a wonderful, heart-aching work of searing beauty. It may not have been written as a direct response to personal loss, but it is scarcely surprising that it was to this work that Howells returned just a few years later to find both the structure and much of the musical material he needed to make his own response to the deepest, most profound loss of his life.

from notes by Paul Andrews © 2012


Other albums featuring this work
'Howells: Requiem; Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor' (CDH55220)
Howells: Requiem; Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55220  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  

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