Monday, 26 May 2008

Herbert Howells: Chamber Music on Lyrita


Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) Piano Quartet in A minor Fantasy String Quartet Op. 25 (1917) Rhapsodic Quintet for clarinet, two violins, viola and cello Op. 31 (1919)
Op. 21 (1916)
I can still recall the excitement when I bought the vinyl edition of this CD some thirty years ago. I have never really listened to much chamber music at that time – certainly English chamber works were virtually a closed book to me. I look forward to listening to this CD over the next few days.
Meanwhile, John Quinn has written a fine review of this recording for MusicWeb International. He begins his review with a quotation from the late Christopher Palmer who describes Howells memorably as "the last of the great English romantics whose tongues were loosened by folksong". Mr. Quinn continues, “The three works gathered on this CD are all suffused with a wonderful English character. Although no folksongs are used the thematic material is manifestly influenced by the treasure trove of native popular melody that had been so effectively mined, preserved and liberated by Vaughan Williams, Holst and others.”
After a number of paragraphs describing the musical content of each of the three works he gallantly says, “In her enthusiastic review of this disc my colleague Em Marshall summed up the quality and calibre of these works most eloquently. I can do no better than to quote her summary: "There is something incredibly English about these works, and they sum up all the poetry and beauty, and, occasionally, the melancholy and harshness, of the English countryside, depicting it in all its moods and through all forces of nature."
He concludes his review by reinforcing the point that “This is another reissue from Lyrita that’s as welcome and self-recommending as it is important. All admirers of Herbert Howells’ music will want to have these first rate performances in their collection.”

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