Movement 1: Allegro, assai vivace
Movement 2: Quasi lent: Teneramente
Movement 3: Allegro vivo: Ritmico e giocoso
Howells described the inspiration behind the work: ‘It was meant to be a modest expression of the abiding spell of music for strings, and to be, in that genus, in humble relationship to two supreme works, Vaughan Williams’s ‘Tallis’ Fantasia, and Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro. In 1910 at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester Cathedral I was present at the first performance of the Fantasia. Within days, and for the first time, I heard the Introduction and Allegro. I was at the time 17; deeply impressionable. 25 years later, again at Gloucester, walking with Sir Edward Elgar in the cathedral precincts, he talked quietly and earnestly of the technique of writing for strings. One name dominated his talk, George Frederick Handel.’
The death of Howells’s son ironically unlocked the frozen powers which had stopped him composing after the debacle of the second piano concerto. He went on to write his undisputed masterpiece, Hymnus Paradisi, and the whole emphasis of his work shifted from music for the concert hall to music either for the church, or choral music with non-liturgical religious texts such as the Stabat mater written in the mid fifties. This (the church music) is the music by which he is best known. Recordings such as this serve to redress the imbalance which has existed for years in the appreciation of Howells’s output by giving us the opportunity to reassess these major orchestral scores through which Howells’s career developed and his musical personality reached maturity.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 1992