Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Alan Opie, Herbert Howells, Richard Hickox|
Howells: Hymnus Paradisi, etc / Hickox, et al
Listen to Samples
A fine recording of Howell's greatest work
Rodney Gavin Bullock | Winchester, Hampshire Angleterre | 06/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Herbert Howells is best known for his church and organ music though he wrote some fine orchestral and chamber works too. Hymnus Paradisi had a long gestation and was completed in 1938 though the war delayed its first performance, at the Three Choirs Festival, until 1950. The chronology is rather confused but he was contemplating composing a requiem in the early 1930s and a first sketch was complete by 1932. His son, Michael, developed a fatal infection in late 1935. He was only nine years old. Howells was devastated and never really got over his loss. The Requiem became an intensely personal thing for him and he kept it in a drawer. It was not published until 1980. This piece for unaccompanied choir is very beautiful and has music in common with the Hymnus, so they are intimately connected.Hymnus Paradisi is a work of incandescent beauty and Lux perpetua - Everlasting Light - sums up the nature of the music. Fiendishly difficult to sing, the vocal lines weave in and out of each other to produce harmonies I can only describe as intense white light as music. The orchestral writing is brilliant, underpinned by mighty organ pedals from time to time. This is one of the greatest choral works of the 20th century and one not to be missed. I was privileged to attend a performance in Hereford cathedral in the late 1970s in the presence of the composer. A diminutive but still handsome man in his eighties, he sat on the raised dias at the rear, both hands folded on top of his stick. The performance by Richard Hickox and his forces is a very fine one and the recording is excellent. The 1970 recording under David Willcocks was transfered to CD and is still available at the time of writing (2001) and is just as good. I would hesitate to choose between them."
Splendid British Choral Music
Mr. Christian Lauliac | Paris France | 06/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although Herbert Howells might not be as popular as other British contemporaries, such as Vaughan Williams and William Walton, his music truly deserves to be widely heard. Being a fan of British music, I first got acquainted with Howells through this magnificent work. There is a great tradition of choral music among British composers. Just think of Vaughan Williams, Holst, Britten... Howells' "Hymnus Paradisi" must definitely be added to this distinguished list for it is an unquestionable masterpiece. At its core resonates a profound sense of loss. The work was composed to exteriorize deep feelings of mourning, following the death of the composer's six years old son, Michael. The feeling here is one of muted introspection. There are powerful tuttis, but the overall atmosphere is quite introspective. The orchestral prelude is arresting. It combines a sense of urgency and bitterness with a dramatic flourish of anger faced with life's cruel injustice. The "Requiem Aeternam" that immediately follows, is by contrast one of the most moving expressions of mourning I have ever heard in sacred music. Some parts bring to mind Gabriel Fauré's "Requiem"'s quiet intimacy. As with most Chandos releases, this recording is terrific with a rich, sensitive performance by the BBC Syphony orchestra and Chorus under Richard Hickox's baton. The recording is spacious. I have since acquired other Howells recordings. This is music with vision and a wide range of expressive feelings. The music is not all gloom and despair. Quite the contrary: I think it shimmers with a deep appreciation of life's beauty. Let us hope now that Chandos will bring us many more works by this most talented of composers."
Hickox captures Howell's grief and precarious optimism
Jdaniel1371 | Sacramento, CA United States | 11/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a poignantly beautiful piece of music. From the very opening measures it's obvious that this is a committed performance--intense in fact. There are many delicate, and obviously intimate, moments in this music and all are caught beautifully by Hickox, soloists, and the BBC.What does the music sound like? It's easier to say what it doesn't sound like. In mysterious sections, Howells colors material "touched by the breath of the eternal," predictably, with delicate harp filigree and rarefied chord progressions, but avoids the Holstian harp/vibraphone twos against threes sound, ("Saturn," of "The Planets" is a good example); reflective moments glow appropriately, but Howells maintains a contrapuntal rigor and forward motion even in times of repose, while Faure, Delius, and Durufle can make one feel as though time is standing still.Vaughan Williams' is about the closest reference I could give--though only on occasion. Howells does not employ any folk-song elements as far as I can tell. The music is chromatic and the vocal writing often sounds declamatory rather than "smoothly melodic." Hymnus is a reworking of an earlier Requiem, and was written as a sort of therapy after the death of the composer's 9yr old son. It was VW who convinced Howells to offer the work for public performance.The Chandos recording also contains a premiere recording of Howells' "A Kent Yeoman's Wooing Song." It's an extrovert piece with a very endearing love song as the 3rd mov't.Solists include Joan Rogers, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and Alan Opie."