Like Arthur Bliss, Herbert Howells chose a chorale prelude from the Orgelbüchlein
: O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde gross
BWV622. Howells had been a passionate admirer of early music since his student days, and was no stranger to composing in an archaic style. (He would later produce an inspired blend of old and new in his keyboard suite Lambert’s Clavichord
.) Unlike some of the other contributors Howells is lavish with dynamic, tempo and expression marks and phrasing. His very slow tempo—slowing further to an Adagiosissimo in the final bars—helps to sustain and clarify the intricate polyphonic web of Bach’s writing. Only towards the end, in the assai sostenuto ascent to the climax, does he do much to personalize the harmony.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010