From my collection.
Bought in 2012.
First listen: CD 1: 24-3-2012; CD 2: 4-4-2012.
Second listen: Both discs: 1-6-2017.
Recording dates: February 1995 & July 1996.
Recording venue: All Saints Church, Tooting, London & Blackheath Halls, London, England.
Recording engineer: Ralph Couzens.
Running time: 58:07 & 65:22.
Relevance to me: Essential.
King's Herald, arranged for full orchestra and organ from the suite Pageantry. (1934-37)
Paradise Rondel, opus 40. (1925)
Fantasia. (1936-37) for Cello and orchestra.
Threnody (compl. 1935) for Cello and orchestra. (1935)
Pastoral Rhapsody (1923-24)
Procession, opus 36 (1920-22).
The B's, opus 13. (1914)
Three Dances, opus 7. (1914-15)
Lydia Mordkovitch, Violin.
Moray Welsh, Cello.
London SO, Richard Hickox.
One could ask oneself why Herbert Howells is totally forgotten as a composer. It cannot be that the quality of his music is the cause of this, for he sits on the front row with Parry, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, just to name a few. He was struck by disaster first when he lost his nine year old son, due to polio, and later on losing close friends in WW 1. This generation paid a high price in this terrible war. Listening through his orchestral compositions on both discs I came to the conclusion, that although he fits in with British composers at his time, he is very much an individual that walks always a bit beside the main road. I will not explain all the pieces on this disc but I will try to paint an image of what to expect. His musical language is unique. Emotionally generous, with a deep intensity, philosophical in approaching his themes, laden with serene and magical imagery, quite vivid contrasts in the colours he is using, excellent contrapuntal virtuosity, all delicately veiled in an all embracing and introspective hue. There are moments of great forward motion, polished with a clarity in it's textures which opens up mystic qualities, intimate and intensely personal. As an example you may listen to the Fantasia, written after the death of his son, but also the deeply felt Threnody. The pulsing glow of the dialogue between cello and orchestra is very moving. So hushed and serene, yet imbued with so much pain. The other side is represented by the B's, although with a touch of melancholy, so brilliantly scored. In all episodes there is an inwardness of all embracing warmth, almost tenderness personified. And also a insightful musical honesty which is endearing. There is behind every piece a bigger picture, of which I was constantly aware.
Pleasantly surprised hearing the late Lydia Mordkovitch perform the Three Dances, for those are brilliantly scored, and so up her alley. Pure joy for almost 15 minutes, but then both CD'S were again a revelation for me. The late Richard Hickox was a favourite conductor in my book, and he gives all and more in this anthology, aided by fine soloists like the delectable Moray Welsh and Mordkovitch. The recordings are State of the Art. Vintage Chandos.
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