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Sonata No 2 in E flat major, Op 26

composer

 
The second violin sonata is a monumental work, full of drama. There are times when the intensity of expression quite takes the breath away. There is little or none of the ruminative Howells here, and to this extent it may serve as a good point of introduction to those unfamiliar with his music. To my mind this work ranks with the Piano Quartet (1916) as the best example of a truly integrated and meaningful piano part in the composer’s output. There is barely a wasted note, and no gratuitous arpeggio figures which occasionally bedevil other works with piano.

The second movement, Quasi lento, is fascinating as a pre-echo of Howells’s most famous song, King David written in 1919. The questioning, rising figure in the piano part also features importantly in the song, and the violin part, particularly in its second phrase, conjures up exactly the same feeling. The third movement opens with a reflection of that rising phrase from the second movement and then launches into a raunchy scherzo. Howells was right to think there was nothing like it in the repertory before. In fact, if anything, it conjures up the feeling of the music used for the television series Dr Finlay’s Casebook (the March from Trevor Duncan’s Little Suite of 1960). This movement has an extraordinary sweep to it, with the second subject being a massive chordal idea from the piano with a big-boned melody from the violin. It is heady stuff. Whatever Howells’s reasons for withdrawing the work (and we can only make educated guesses about them), we must be grateful that he did not destroy the manuscript.

from notes by Paul Spicer 1993

Recordings

Howells: Music for violin and piano
CDH55139

Details

Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Quasi lento
Movement 3: Lento Allegro molto

Track-specific metadata for CDA66665 track 14

Lento Allegro molto
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-93-66514
Duration
6'19
Recording date
9 May 1993
Recording venue
Seldon Hall, Haberdashers' Aske's School, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Paul Spicer
Recording engineer
Steve Portnoi
Hyperion usage
  1. Howells: Music for violin and piano (CDA66665)
    Disc 1 Track 14
    Release date: November 1993
    Deletion date: January 2004
    Superseded by CDH55139
  2. Howells: Music for violin and piano (CDH55139)
    Disc 1 Track 14
    Release date: January 2004
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