Sunday, 5 October 2008

Herbert Howells: An early appreciation

Recently, I found this article from the November 10 1917 edition of the Musical Standard. It is worth reprinting as it is one of the earliest profiles of Herbert Howells :-
The first performance of the Phantasy Sonata [1] for violin, of Mr Herbert Howells, by Miss Sybil Eaton, at her recital was a great success and followed the equal measure of success accorded to Lady Audrey’s Suite. [2] This young composer was born at Lydney, Gloucester, in 1892, and during the years 1905-1912 he studied piano, organ and counterpoint with Dr. Herbert Brewer, of Gloucester Cathedral. During three years he worked unassisted at composition, producing sonatas (one for violin and piano and another for organ), pieces for piano, settings of Irish poems [3] and part-songs. With these he competed for the open scholarship offered by the Royal College of Music in September, 1912, and won it.
During 1912-7 he studied composition with Sir Charles Stanford, organ with Sir Walter Parratt, counterpoint with Dr. Wood, and other subjects with Sir Hubert Parry and Dr. Walford Davies. He held successively the open, Grove and Bruce scholarships, was awarded the Sullivan prize, the Manns memorial prize, the Dove prize and the organ extemporisation prize. In 1915 he received the Tagore gold medal and the silver medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Organists in 1916.

Among the works produced at the R.C.M. concerts were the Suite for orchestra, ‘ The B’s’ Op.13, 1914; Five Songs for high voice and orchestra Op.10, 1915 the Dances for violin and orchestra Op.12, 1916; the Suite for Strings Op.27, 1917 and various chamber works.
The Piano Concerto in C minor Op.8 was produced under the direction of Sir Charles Stanford at the Queen’s Hall in July 1914.
In January, 1915, Mr. Howells began contributing articles and criticisms to the ‘Athenaeum’ and he wrote regularly for that famous journal until March 1917. In that month he accepted the post of sub-organist at Salisbury Cathedral, but was compelled to relinquish it the following summer due to ill-health.
He was one of the seven composers [4] who figured in the first list selected by the Carnegie Trustees, of those who are to have each a work published, and it is extremely probable that his Piano Quartet in A minor Op. 21 will enjoy the distinction of being the first work issued under the already famous Carnegie Publishing Scheme. Only one chamber work was selected this year.
The success of this work was responsible for the many requests Mr. Howells has received for the production in London and elsewhere of works of his composition.
This autumn the following will be or have been produced:
Lady Audrey’s Suite, for string orchestra Op.19 (by the British Quartet, Steinway Hall, October 18)
Phantasy String Quartet, Op. 25 (prize winner in 1917 Cobbett competition) by the London String Quartet, Aeolian Hall, October 25
Phantasy Sonata, violin and piano (by Miss Sybil Eaton and Mr. O’Connor Morris, Wigmore Hall, November 1)
Comedy Suite for clarinet and piano, Op.8 (by Mr. Charles Draper and Mme. Henkel, Steinway Hall, November 8)
Piano Quartet in A minor, Op.21 (at Oxford University Music Club concert, Oxford November 6)
Rhapsody for baritone solo, violin, ‘cello and organ, Op.28 [5] (at Dr. Darke’s Monday recitals, St. Michael’s Cornhill, November 26).
Elegy for stringed orchestra (at Bach Choir concert, Queen’s Hall, December)

Mr. Howells has been encouraged by Dr. R.R. Terry, of Westminster Cathedral, in composition of unaccompanied Latin choral music, much of which, including the Missa Sine Nomine, eight-part Nunc Dimittis and Gloria [6], and anthems, he has produced at Westminster Cathedral. Despite his work as a composer of Latin Church music, Mr. Howells is a Protestant.
From an unsigned article in the Musical Standard November 10 1917

Editorial Notes
[1] In 1917 Howells composed his Phantasy Sonata for violin and piano which was premiered at the Wigmore Hall by Sybil Eaton and O’Connor Morris, however in 1918 it was revised and found new life as the Sonata No 1 in E major, Op 18
[2] Lady Audrey Suite is one of the few major pieces by Howells to be unavailable on CD.
[3] Probably the Five Songs for low voice, 1911, (unpublished) The Twilight People (O'Sullivan);The Devotee (Keohler ); The Waves of Breffny (Gore-Booth); The Sorrow of Love (O'Sullivan) and The Call (Roberts)
[4] The seven works were:- Edgar Bainton’s Symphony ‘Before Sunrise’ for contralto solo, chorus and orchestra; Granville Bantock’s Hebridean Symphony; Rutland Boughton’s Opera: The Immortal Hour; Frank Bridge’s Symphonic Suite: The Sea; Herbert Howells’s Pianoforte Quartet in A minor; Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s Opera: The Travelling Companion and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony.
[5] This is actually Op.10 ‘By the Waters of Babylon’ Rhapsody written for Harold Darke at St. Michael’s Cornhill. The opus number has been wrongly attributed. Op. 28 is the Three Pieces for violin & piano. Thanks to the scholar Paul Spicer for this information.
[6] I cannot trace this piece in the list of works in Palmer's Herbert Howells a celebration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this!
i am writing a dissertation on howells chamber music :)