Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor

'Howells: Concertos & Dances' (CDH55205)
Howells: Concertos & Dances
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55205  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
Movement 1: Allegro: Hard and bright
Track 7 on CDH55205 [10'49] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Movement 2: Poco lento, calmato
Track 8 on CDH55205 [8'20] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Movement 3: Allegro: Hard and bright again
Track 9 on CDH55205 [7'52] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service

Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor
This concerto is a big-scale, three-movement work, designed on a very unusual ground plan (which was possibly what led to the outburst). Howells organized the three movements as a huge sonata-form structure with the first movement acting as the exposition, the slow movement as the development, and the last movement as a modified recapitulation (all the movements are linked). To this extent the constant referral back to the first subject (a short, diatonic tune) can become monotonous unless sympathetically interpreted. The problems at the first performance were exacerbated by unsympathetic performers. This must have come across to any with ears to hear.

In describing the form of the work, Howells also hints at something deeper which was to become such a hallmark of his style later on: ‘What always matters to a modern is to express a complex mood. Now for that, sonata form is not always suitable, or sonata form as hitherto accepted.’ This ‘complex mood’ was something which Vaughan Williams brought to perfection in his utterly original Pastoral Symphony. Howells described this more fully in a penetrating article in Music and Letters in April 1922: ‘He neither depicts nor describes. It is not his concern to “make the universe his box of toys”. He builds up a great mood, insistent to an unusual degree, but having in itself far more variety than a merely slight acquaintance with it would suggest. In matter and manner it is entirely personal … you may not like the Symphony’s frame of mind; but there it is, strong and courageous; it is the truth of the work, and out of it would naturally arise whatever risk it has run of being publicly cold-shouldered.’

Howells’s Piano Concerto No 2 is full of drama and lyricism. He intended it to be a ‘diatonic affair, with deliberate tunes all the way … jolly in feeling, and attempting to get to the point as quickly as maybe’. Certainly it is a tour de force and is quite unlike any other concerto of the period. With its brilliant use of the orchestra and its colourful effects it must have sounded very modern indeed to that audience on 27 April 1925.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 1992

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Details for CDH55205 track 8
Poco lento, calmato
Recording date
31 March 1992
Recording venue
Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Gary Cole
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Howells: Concertos & Dances (CDA66610)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: October 1992
    Deletion date: July 2004
    Superseded by CDH55205
  2. Howells: Concertos & Dances (CDH55205)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: September 2005
    Deletion date: December 2013
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
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