Printed below is a review of the first perforamcne by the great musicologist Marion M. Scott
By Marion M Scott
"‘Merry-Eye’ by Herbert Howells" Christian Science Monitor, 30 October 1920
MERRY EYE BY HERBERT HOWELLS
By The Christian Science Monitor Special Correspondent
LONDON, England - Merry Eye, a new composition by Herbert Howells was produced at the Queens Hall Promenade Concert on September 30, the composer himself conducting. It is what may be called a big-little work, and possesses qualities which pique the listener's attention. Short as to length, delicately handled, and scored for a small orchestra, it achieves a music effect as if it were a symphonic poem. Upon the surface it appears to be light music; beneath there runs a vein of deep seriousness. The number of instruments employed looks small but it sounds wonderfully full and soft. Out of the resources of two flutes, one piccolo, two clarinets, two bassoons, three horns, percussion, piano and strings, HH has produced a score which for skill and beauty of color could hold its own beside anything by Debussy or Stravinsky.
The work itself however is English; merry, pathetic, lively or wistful in turn. Its full story is only divulged by the music, never in words, though the composer does go so far as to say in his note: "This piece has not necessarily a program; but if an idea of such be entertained, it can be supposed that the listener meets with an average-type character out of the domain of folklore - called "Merry-Eye" - who reveals more about himself and his personality than folklore itself ever tells of him or his kind. Much that he relates is true to his name and to such part of his history as is common reading - public property; much else, on the other hand, contradicts this."
As in some of Howells' other works - notably the opening movement of the Piano Quartet in A minor - the first subject is of less importance than the second. Here in "Merry-Eye" the second subject takes the form of a lovely melody treated canonically. The work was well received and is to be given again at the Queen's Hall in the near future.
This article appears here with the kind permission of Pamela Blevins