Andrew McGregor
BBC Radio 3 CD Review
May 2020

If the name Herbert Howells conjures echos of Anglican Evensong—those perfectly crafted anthems and services for cathedral and church choirs—this next newcomer might come as a seismic shock. The music certainly should: it’s a lavishly scored mass setting by Howells written for the Worcester Three Choirs Festival in 1954, his Missa Sabrinensis, the Mass of the River Severn which laps at the steps of Worcester Cathedral. It’s a celebration of Howells’s annual pilgrimages to the festival, but also of the landscape, the powerful flow of the river felt in the long surging lines; of the English choral tradition he knew so intimately; and of other British composers, notably Vaughan Williams … this new recording perfectly captures the radiance of the writing, the grandeur of the vision—just wait for the Gloria that comes after [the Kyrie] when you listen to this—and the connection with landscape and tradition. A perfect way to hear Howells at his most expansive.