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Martin Cooke

Howells

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'Just downloaded his string music from Chandos - rather nice!!

 

A

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Absolutely superb performance of Master Tallis's Testament by Daniel Cook during a SCF concert at Salisbury this afternoon. I think this is one of Howells's best pieces and it was played today by one of our best young players.

 

Malcolm

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Absolutely superb performance of Master Tallis's Testament by Daniel Cook during a SCF concert at Salisbury this afternoon. I think this is one of Howells's best pieces and it was played today by one of our best young players.

 

Malcolm

 

 

.....and probably as near an ideal place to hear it as one can find!

 

A

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The reference by Vox to Howells’ Sine Nomine reminds me that many years ago I found myself playing the piano in the presence of the great man while accompanying a fellow student in the Brahms 2nd Clarinet Sonata; she was trying for an internal award at the Royal College of Music. After the other examiners had put a few questions to the candidate, Howells tackled me. I told him that my first study was the organ and that I was about to take my ARCO and was, in fact, learning Sine Nomine, set that year, 1956. “Really,” he replied, rather enigmatically, “what do you make of the piece?” Being brought up to be a good boy and always to be truthful, I said, “Well, Doctor Howells, not a lot, I’m afraid.” “Hmm,” was his reaction, “neither do I”.

 

David Harrison

 

Not as unusual an attitude as it may seem, this: as the poet Robert Browning once declared about a particularly enigmatic piece of his work, "When I wrote that, God and Robert Browning knew what it meant; now only God knows!"

 

Curiously enough, I heard the opposite side of the coin from a former teacher of mine who had been a pupil of Howells at the RCM. He had prepared the famous Psalm Prelude Set 1 No. 2 for an exam, working on it with Howells to make sure he understood the music as deeply as possible. He was very satisfied with his performance in the exam, yet was very taken aback to find HH's comment on his mark sheet - "a most unsympathetic performance." I'm convinced that there's a risk involved in studying a composer-performer's works with them, namely that it can make the composer very self-conscious or simply annoyed at hearing their own material floating from practice rooms day after day... (Marcel Dupre once rebuked Langlais for playing the Symphonie-Passion "as if it were the only organ work" or words to that effect. You can see how it might have bothered him!)

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...a very interesting discussion, once more, and covering common problems not exclusively related to Howells. Those composers where one would like to ask "Did the world really need them?"...

Anyway, I am just talking about the general phenomenon, as I have no impression of Howells' organ music yet. But the contributions here will make me start searching for the LP I brought back from GB nearly 30 years ago, beeing on a school visit in Norwich - "The organ works of Herbert Howells" it says on the cover, which shows vaults only (Norwich?) but no organ. Cant' remember the player. I once played the record then, but at those mid-teenage time time it would have been hopeless even with a more attractive composer. But I will dig it out and listen again!

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an angst ... tension, call it what-you-will which makes it hard to love the music

 

Really? :blink:

 

Do you mean in general, or only in Howells's works?

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... But the contributions here will make me start searching for the LP I brought back from GB nearly 30 years ago, beeing on a school visit in Norwich - "The organ works of Herbert Howells" it says on the cover, which shows vaults only (Norwich?) but no organ. Cant' remember the player.

Michael Nicholas, I think, and on the long-gone Vista label. I remember hearing that disc myself.

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Dear Mr Kropf, I also have such LPs from the 70's.

They aren't fair to Howells as the timely fashion held

sharp, modern Mixtures for mandatory, even in Howells.

And such stops, moreover, are strongly distorted by the

LP technology....As a result this is the kind of LP one listen to

just once.

 

As Cynic mentionned above, we know very precisely which kind of organ,

and indeed which organs, Howells had in mind.

So go directly to this one:

 

http://amphion-recordings.com/phicd222.html

 

Pierre

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Guest drd
...

 

I have often said to students that they must not play the organ music like an organ piece, but in their mind conduct it as if it is another vocal work. ...

I simply could not agree more with this - it's vital.

 

...

 

Hands up those organists who have studied the other works of Howells - of course the vocal ones, but the chamber music too? Who has understood the different period's of his life and the catastrophic calamities that influence a number of the works? ...

 

I was fortunate to come across some of HH's music before coming across any recordings or performances, and this seems important. I hope soon to have the chance to conduct some of his music for strings - and am greatly looking forward to studying them.

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I always feel with Howells that there is an element of posturing in his music, an angst (especially post-Michael), tension, call it what-you-will which makes it hard to love the music, though I agree that for the player performing in the right setting he can work his magic. It is surely no coincidence that his daughter, Ursula, became such a distinguished and much-loved actress. Howells himself, in the only film clip I have of him talking (taken from the BBC's 1970 documentary on Vaughan Williams) is also rather posed and stagey (eg the rather convoluted delivery, the luxuriant hair 'just so', seeking out the best light for the camera (as John le Mesurier was wont to do in Dad's Army!) Fascinating.

There is. I am certain I have read or heard somewhere reliable (Palmer? Ursula? - the latter, I think) that Howells was indeed vain. Then there was this quote from the pianist Hilary MacNamara many years ago on a Radio 3 programme about Howells called "Out of the Deep: A portrait of Herbert Howells":

 

He said, 'My dear, it is very necessary to have a public voice.' He was possibly the most passionate individual I've ever met –
amazingly
passionate in his response to just about every aspect of life. His public persona covered that. It was [a] relatively cool, urbane, debonair, very
English
personality; and deep down there was an absolute boiling cauldron of Celtic temperament and passion, and despair, and elation and you name it – it was a kaleidoscope that was turning all the time and shifting in balance.

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There is. I am certain I have read or heard somewhere reliable (Palmer? Ursula? - the latter, I think) that Howells was indeed vain. Then there was this quote from the pianist Hilary MacNamara many years ago on a Radio 3 programme about Howells called "Out of the Deep: A portrait of Herbert Howells":

He said, 'My dear, it is very necessary to have a public voice.' He was possibly the most passionate individual I've ever met –
amazingly
passionate in his response to just about every aspect of life. His public persona covered that. It was [a] relatively cool, urbane, debonair, very
English
personality; and deep down there was an absolute boiling cauldron of Celtic temperament and passion, and despair, and elation and you name it – it was a kaleidoscope that was turning all the time and shifting in balance.

 

 

I wonder if the Norwich disc that is being referred to is the marvellous double album of choral and organ music conducted by Michael Nicholas and with Malcolm Archer at the Organ?

 

I also recall with fondness Francis Jackson's recording of the Hovingham Sketches at York Minster. Howells contributed the 'Epilogue'

 

Ed

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I wonder if the Norwich disc that is being referred to is the marvellous double album of choral and organ music conducted by Michael Nicholas and with Malcolm Archer at the Organ?

 

Ed

 

Ah yes - I also own a copy of this release. It is indeed a very fine recording (although one or two of the solo organ tracks contain a few blemishes). Archer's playing is superb.

 

It was on this recording that I first heard Howells' Evening Canticles, in G major (1917) - with a Gloria (Magnificat) to rival that of Collegium Regale.

 

The Norwich organ has never sounded finer than on this disc - except, of course, for the wonderful recording of Reger's Seven Pieces (op. 145) by Brian Runnett, who was responsible for drawing up the scheme of the HN&B rebuild.

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Rumaging about in my music today I came across my ancient copy of Siciliano for a High Ceremony. Does anyone play this and is it worth learning? Do recital audiences appreciate it? Does anyone play any of the more recently released Howells - you know, the stuff that Novello produced about 15 years ago? I've never bothered with any of it but am I missing anything?

Martin

 

=========================

 

 

You may be missing out on harmony for the sake of harmony, and modulation for the sake of modulation, but you will not be missing out on music.

 

<_<

 

MM

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You may be missing out on harmony for the sake of harmony, and modulation for the sake of modulation, but you will not be missing out on music.

 

<_<

 

MM

 

But at least you're not missing out on chromaticism for the sake of chromaticism and texture for the sake of thickness.

 

(You knew that was coming, didn't you, MM? :P )

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I was recently in Braunschweig, DE, and happened to notice that Howells' Requiem was being performed at the Magnikirche on 14 November, along with Byrd and RV-W.

So his music is appreciated beyond these shores...

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I was recently in Braunschweig, DE, and happened to notice that Howells' Requiem was being performed at the Magnikirche on 14 November, along with Byrd and RV-W.

So his music is appreciated beyond these shores...

 

'Twin towned' with Bath - the Abbey choir goes and sings 'cathedral repertoire etc.' every so often too.

 

A

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I was recently in Braunschweig, DE, and happened to notice that Howells' Requiem was being performed at the Magnikirche on 14 November, along with Byrd and RV-W.

So his music is appreciated beyond these shores...

 

I have mentioned this before, but two or three years ago a German friend of mine send me a CD of a Christmas concert given by a youth choir in Aachen. The very varied programme included Howells's three carol-anthems and also, of all things, the Magnificat from his Hereford service. At the time it had probably been barely performed in this country; it had certainly not been recorded. The choir director had come across it while browsing in an English music shop and had bought it on spec.

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....a youth choir in Aachen.

Please forgive my being "picky" so early in the morning, but one needs to beware of confusing "Jugendchor" with "Junge Chor".

The former is indeed a Youth Choir (based at the school where our friend teaches). The latter (title literally means "young choir") is a group of people who were once young and were students at the local university. They are also about to perform Parry's "Great Service" in D.

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So weit, so gut.

 

Now who will record the complete organ works on a fine A.H

for us ?

(Cynic clearly indicated which instruments are to be used for that)

 

The market is there. A big add will be placed (for free!) on the first

french-speaking organ forum.

 

Pierre

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So weit, so gut.

 

Now who will record the complete organ works on a fine A.H

for us ?

(Cynic clearly indicated which instruments are to be used for that)

 

The market is there. A big add will be placed (for free!) on the first

french-speaking organ forum.

 

Pierre

 

At A = 435 of course.

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So weit, so gut.

 

Now who will record the complete organ works on a fine A.H

for us ?

(Cynic clearly indicated which instruments are to be used for that)

 

The market is there. A big add will be placed (for free!) on the first

french-speaking organ forum.

 

Pierre

It's not that easy to find Arthur Harrison organs that can be used in an untouched state, ie the player chooses not to use the 'xxxx', but all the fundamentals are still there. I can think of 5 off the top of my head, but none of buildings sound right. Problem is that you need to try to replicate the Gloucester ambience and acoustic too. The latter might more easily be done using a turn of the century Willis. I can only think of 1 AH where the organ can be used appropriately, and the building is about right.

 

AJS

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Gloucester was originally a Willis I, and a recent Video lend to believe

there was still something of it to be heard.

Aaaah, you see, there are some reasons to keep out-of-fashion organs

sometimes, despite the lightheartly "needs" to stay à la page

in the comme il faut circles!

 

Pierre

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