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Howells Herbert (1892-1983)

Biography of Howells Herbert:

Herbert Howells taught composition at the Royal College of Music which has a distinguished tradition of composer-teachers going back to Parry and Stanford, both of whom joined the institution when it opened in 1883. Howells was also associated with the University of London. He was appointed King Edward VII Professor, a somewhat anomalous position, since the University did not have a music faculty. When his successor Thurston Dart set one up at King's College in 1964, he met with considerable opposition from the music colleges, who had little awareness of and sympathy for current concepts of musicology. In an interview with Christopher Palmer, Howells states that one of the two revelatory musical experiences of his youth was hearing the premiere of the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis in Gloucester Cathedral in 1910, the excitement of the performance being magnified by the coincidence that, after leaving the rostrum, Vaughan Williams happened to sit next to Howells and the two of them followed the same score through the subsequent performance of The Dream of Gerontius. (How rarely do people follow scores in performances now!). Both were Gloucestershire men, though from opposite sides of the county. Howells came from Lydney on the Welsh side of the Severn, Vaughan Williams from Down Ampney (between Cirencester and Swindon). Their musical tastes were very similar; the English folk idiom is less overt in Howells, but both were influenced by music of the sixteenth century, which in Howells' case led to a contrapuntal approach to music. Howells contrasted the blocks of sound typical of the music of Delius, whom he admired for his mastery of flow and continuity, with his own manner; 'I think polyphonically, in lines'. Howells was never a pupil of Vaughan Williams, and in fact both were colleagues at the Royal College of Music; Vaughan Williams taught composition there from 1919 and Howells joined him the following year. Howells seems to have lacked the self-promotional skills necessary for success as a composer, and few of his works were widely performed. But a handful of his works have become classics. For those familiar with the church repertoire, he is one of the major English composers of the century. The marvellously flowing A Spotless Rose is sung in many a carol service, the poignant anthem Like as the hart reminds one of Summertime as much as the English cathedral style, and there is a whole series of services. One of the outstanding songs of the pre-Britten period is his King David (with words by Howells' favourite poet. Walter de la Mare). He also wrote the only substantial and successful body of music this century for the clavichord with the collections Lambert's Clavichord and Howells' Clavichord. There is some fine music for organ, the instrument which was his primary study. However, GMCD 7119 contains most of Howells' published piano music.

CD's with Howells Herbert
Canticum Novum

ArtNr. GMCD 7101

Piano Music by Herbert Howells & Bernard Stevens

ArtNr. GMCD 7119

Peace In Our Time - Music of Peace and War

ArtNr. GMCD 7151

Magnificat, The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Music

ArtNr. GMCD 7158

Wedding Hymns

ArtNr. GMCD 7160

Christmas with the Chapter House Choir in York Minster

ArtNr. GMCD 7166

Silent Night

ArtNr. GMCD 7170

O Magnum Mysterium - Christmas Music and Corals

ArtNr. GMCD 7226

Organ Spectacular from St Paul's Cathedral with Huw Williams

ArtNr. GMCD 7304

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