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Howells's Paean


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There is a bar in this piece that has always sounded odd to me, but it has only just dawned on me that it might be due to a misprint.

 

The bar in question is on page 7, at the end of the second system. This is the fourth bar of the accelerando on the swell. As printed, we have a second inversion chord of E flat major with an added major seventh. The D natural in the left hand sounds unusually dissonant and I am wondering whether it should be a D flat. D flat, or its enharmonic equivalent C sharp, is the common anchor point for the chords throughout the previous three bars and it would make sense for it to continue to be so; the music is heading for a chord of A flat, so what is the point of introducing a D natural? The D and B flat in this fourth bar coalesce onto a middle C at the start of the next system, so isn't a D flat much more likely? Thus a D flat would be entirely logical, whereas the printed D natural has no logic to it at all.

 

I don't think the manuscript of this piece exists any more (I think the MSS of the Six Pieces were retained by Novello), but even if it confirmed the D natural I think I might still put it down to an oversight on Howells's part - unless anyone knows differently.

 

Any thoughts?

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Every bar that Howells ever wrote sound odd to me, unless he found someone else's tune to keep him on the straight and narrow. (Tallis)

 

As printed, we have a second inversion chord of E flat major with an added major seventh. The D natural in the left hand sounds unusually dissonant and I am wondering whether it should be a D flat. D flat, or its enharmonic equivalent C sharp, is the common anchor point for the chords throughout the previous three bars and it would make sense for it to continue to be so; the music is heading for a chord of A flat, so what is the point of introducing a D natural? The D and B flat in this fourth bar coalesce onto a middle C at the start of the next system, so isn't a D flat much more likely? Thus a D flat would be entirely logical, whereas the printed D natural has no logic to it at all.

 

Schonberg had the courage of his convictions, and when he wrote the rubbish for organ that he did, at least he abandoned diatonic harmony.

 

Reger had his chorales and fugues, and stretched diatonic harmony to the ultimate degree.

 

What did Howells do?

 

He modulated; that's what.

 

Now on the basis that anything by Howells is an eternal circle of fifths and dominant sevenths, almost any note is related to any other, either at specific points in time or in the near future/recent past. As time probably doesn't exist as we think it does, I believe that it is entirely appropriate to just whaffle away in the style of Howells, playing anything that springs to mind. Indeed, my own acclaimed improvisation on a theme of Howells took diminution to new heights.

 

It was described as "Harmonically outstanding" by one critic, who went on to suggest that the work had a certain "disturbing brevity."

 

I hadn't the heart to inform the critic, that when presented with the rambling theme of a Howell's Rhapsody, I instantly vomitted and then fainted; collpasing in a heap across all four keyboards; mercifully set up with mysterious Celestes, a Clarionet and a Clarabella.

 

What the critic described as a "fragmented development" was actually the application of a wet sponge on the keys, the stops, the pedals and finally, my penguin suit.

 

My advice would be to accept the D natural for what it is....whatever it is....whatever it may be and whatever it may become.

 

It's probably the only bloody note that your listeners will ever remember afterwards.

 

:o MM

 

PS: ".....the music is heading for a chord of A flat" The Titanic was heading for America!

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I am wondering whether that is supposed to be funny - or just bigotted twaddle!!

 

I'm not over fond of Howells either but the above doesn't deserve to grace this board!!

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Oh, I think he's just trying to wind me up. MM prefers the corpulent, crapulent musical excesses of a corpulent, crapulent man whose music mostly just sounds like one long belch - usually a loud one; a man who, unable to handle anything as exacting as modulation, just contented himself with sliming through all the chromatics he could possibly think of, while his music metaphorically slides off the bar stool into a semi-comatose heap on the floor, whereupon it picks itself up and goes through the whole procedure again and again, until eventually it manages to stay triumphantly on the stool and collapse on the bar itself. And, in a futile attempt to convince the hearer that there is some point in all this hot air, he bludgeons his musical diarrhoea home by doubling every note in every possible octave with both hands and every available toe.

 

Yah! Boo! Sucks!

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A kind reader has taken the trouble to contact me privately to point out that he cannot identify the bar in question from my description as he is using the collected edition of the Six Pieces. It is true that I was working from a separate copy of the piece. I had assumed that the collected edition would have been printed from the same plates and thus the seventh page of the piece would be the same in both versions, but I do not have the collected edition, so cannot tell.

 

Therefore, to remove all doubt, the bar in question is bar 89. I hope this clarifies.

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It's suspicious that there is no precautionary natural on the D in the left hand. As they have been provided very generously elsewhere, it would appear that the absence of an accidental on this D is unintentional - though whether on Howells's part, the editor's or the typesetter's is another issue.

 

By the way, I am working from the collected edition, and the bar in question occurs exactly where you describe.

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Oh, I think he's just trying to wind me up. MM prefers the corpulent, crapulent musical excesses of a corpulent, crapulent man whose music mostly just sounds like one long belch - usually a loud one; a man who, unable to handle anything as exacting as modulation, just contented himself with sliming through all the chromatics he could possibly think, while his music metaphorically slides off the bar stool into a semi-comatose heap on the floor, whereupon it picks itself up and goes through the whole procedure again and again, until eventually it manages to stay triumphantly on the stool and collapse on the bar itself. And, in a futile attempt to convince the hearer that there is some point in all this hot air, he bludgeons his musical diarrhoea home by doubling every note in every possible octave with both hands and every available toe.

 

Yah! Boo! Sucks!

 

 

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

 

 

Wagner?

 

 

MM

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I am wondering whether that is supposed to be funny - or just bigotted twaddle!!

 

I'm not over fond of Howells either but the above doesn't deserve to grace this board!!

 

 

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

 

 

I am not alone........

 

"Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

 

— Mark Twain

 

"There are some experiences in life which should not be demanded twice from any man, and one of them is listening to the Brahms Requiem."

 

— George Bernard Shaw

 

"Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end."

 

— Igor Stravinsky

 

"Mr. Wagner has beautiful moments but bad quarters of an hour."

 

— Gioacchino Antonio Rossini

 

"Last night at Carnegie Hall, Jack Benny played Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn lost."

 

— Harold C. Schonberg

 

"Beethoven always sounds to me like the upsetting of a bag of nails, with here and there an also dropped hammer."

 

— John Ruskin

 

"A good composer is slowly discovered and a bad composer is slowly found out."

 

— Ernest Newman

 

"If anyone has conducted a Beethoven performance, and then doesn't have to go to an osteopath, then there's something wrong."

 

— Simon Rattle

 

"I once sent him a song and asked him to mark a cross wherever he thought it was faulty. Brahms returned it untouched, saying 'I don't want to make a cemetery of your compositions.' "

 

— Hugo Wolf

 

"I love Wagner, but the music I prefer is that of a cat hung up by its tail outside a window and trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws."

 

— Charles-Pierre Baudelaire

 

"I may not be a first-rate composer, but I am a first-class second-rate composer."

 

— Richard Strauss

 

"Beethoven's last quartets were written by a deaf man and should only be listened to by a deaf man."

 

— Thomas Beecham

 

"I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland."

 

— Woody Allen

 

 

MM

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There is a bar in this piece that has always sounded odd to me, but it has only just dawned on me that it might be due to a misprint. The bar in question is on page 7, at the end of the second system.

For those with the one-volume Six Pieces it's page 36, second system, last bar. I had pencilled in a D flat in the LH chord on a previous occasion; its absence is, of course, a misprint.

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I can recommend the Lexicon of Musical Invective, written by Nicolas Slonimsky. This is a compilation of critical reviews.

 

Charles Ives got tired of his music engraver "correcting" his music, "Those wrong notes; all of them are right". He also advised one of the more timid members of the audience to "stand up and use his ears like a man."

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It's suspicious that there is no precautionary natural on the D in the left hand. As they have been provided very generously elsewhere, it would appear that the absence of an accidental on this D is unintentional - though whether on Howells's part, the editor's or the typesetter's is another issue.

Good observation. Thanks, Nick.

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  • 3 weeks later...

While on the subject of Howells misprints, another telling one occurs in the last of the Psalm Preludes (Set 2, No. 3). In the twenty-second bar of the Maestoso, meno mosso, the pedal minim E should be F sharp, thus agreeing with the manuals. I have this from two separate sources, and believe one of them received this correction from Howells himself.

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While on the subject of Howells misprints, another telling one occurs in the last of the Psalm Preludes (Set 2, No. 3). In the twenty-second bar of the Maestoso, meno mosso, the pedal minim E should be F sharp, thus agreeing with the manuals. I have this from two separate sources, and believe one of them received this correction from Howells himself.

Thank you. That makes a lot of sense since it then agrees with bar 14.

 

I've mentioned this before, but another one which surely must be a misprint (though I've never been able to obtain confirmation) is in the Psalm Prelude 2/ii, where the last quaver in the left hand of bar 26 must surely be an A sharp (thus anticipating the succeeding note and agreeing with the A sharp in the right hand). The printed A natural has no logic.

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I've mentioned this before, but another one [...] is in the Psalm Prelude 2/ii, where the last quaver in the left hand of bar 26 must surely be an A sharp (thus anticipating the succeeding note and agreeing with the A sharp in the right hand). The printed A natural has no logic.

 

I agree; the same progression occurs in another key eighteen bars later.

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  • 1 month later...
I am never convinced by the A natural in the left hand of the bar following the one discussed above. There is a sustained A flat in the right hand, so shouldn't the left hand A be flat too?

You refer to the Paean, of course.

 

If the note were a plain A, one might well wonder, but it is specifically marked with a natural sign, which I think is pretty conclusive. Technically the accidental is redundant, so it is surely there as a warning to the player that the false relation with the RH A flat is intentional. Also, the melodic progression from A natural to B natural is arguably rather more likely than an augmented second.

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I gave up reading the Radio 3 message board years ago, then recently I enrolled in John Mander's Forum. It makes marginally better reading but we tend to be a bigotted lot (and the standard of our syntax doesn't always bear the searchlight of eternity, don't it). However, I was curious about the title Howells' misprint, wondering how on earth anyone could be certain that such music was not one continuos misprint, so I read on. Then came your splendid piece that ended: PS: ".....the music is heading for a chord of A flat" The Titanic was heading for America!

 

Thank you for that breath of fresh air. I came upon this after-dinner tale that Howells was said to have told and which might interest you:

 

Ivor Gurney and Herbert Howells were great friends. In the early 1920s composition lessons at the Royal College of Music were limited to half-an-hour a week. Students were allowed to share lessons thus gaining extra tuition time. Howells was invited to sit-in on one of Ivor's lessons. "What have you brought this week?", said Stanford. Gurney handed him the manuscript of a song. He made no comment, sat down at his table and studied the two doubles pages. The silence was nearly embrassing. Fifteen minutes passed. Nobody spoke. Finally Stanford took out his pen, made a tiny alteration put the pen back and returned the manuscript to the student Ivor Gurney. "That'll be half-a-crown", said Stanford.

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we tend to be a bigotted lot

But of course. We're organists. Being pig-headed is a job requirement. :mellow:

 

(and the standard of our syntax doesn't always bear the searchlight of eternity, don't it).

I'm sure I can't be the only one here who makes a deliberate effort (most of the time anyway) not to write in the language of academic journals.

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Every bar that Howells ever wrote sound odd to me, unless he found someone else's tune to keep him on the straight and narrow. (Tallis)

Purely for the sake of pedantry (because I'm in that sort of mood) I would point out that at no time did Howells write anything on a theme by Tallis.

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  • 3 weeks later...
There is a bar in this piece that has always sounded odd to me, but it has only just dawned on me that it might be due to a misprint.

 

The bar in question is on page 7, at the end of the second system. This is the fourth bar of the accelerando on the swell. As printed, we have a second inversion chord of E flat major with an added major seventh. The D natural in the left hand sounds unusually dissonant and I am wondering whether it should be a D flat. D flat, or its enharmonic equivalent C sharp, is the common anchor point for the chords throughout the previous three bars and it would make sense for it to continue to be so; the music is heading for a chord of A flat, so what is the point of introducing a D natural? The D and B flat in this fourth bar coalesce onto a middle C at the start of the next system, so isn't a D flat much more likely? Thus a D flat would be entirely logical, whereas the printed D natural has no logic to it at all.

 

I don't think the manuscript of this piece exists any more (I think the MSS of the Six Pieces were retained by Novello), but even if it confirmed the D natural I think I might still put it down to an oversight on Howells's part - unless anyone knows differently.

 

Any thoughts?

 

I've been looking at the Paean again as it's my final voluntary next Sunday (October 17 being Howells's birthday). I have alternatives pencilled in at two places following a letter or article I read some years ago in Organists' Review I think. They are the D flat mentioned above, and in the pedal in the first bar of the final system of the fourth page a jump down of a ninth G to F (like the A to G in the next bar). I then remembered that although I play the piece from the single copy Novello edition I have it in a collection - The Modern Anthology (Part Two) compiled and edited by David McK. Williams.

The Foreward (sic) to the second edition (1972) starts . . .

"This anthology first appeared as a one volume collection (1949). In re-issuing this work, it has been thought best to divide the original book into two parts to make it less cumbersome for all concerned."

I assume my 1972 printing is the same as in the 1949 one volume edition. The Anthology was published by the H. W. Gray Co. in the USA. 1949 is also the copyright date on the Novello edition.

Both the Gray and Novello editions have the same number of pages and the same number of bars on each page, but are clearly not from the same plates - a couple of examples . . .

1) page 1 line 2 bar 2 right hand (Gray) the quaver is beamed with the last 4 semiquavers of bar 1; (Novello) bar 2 starts with the quaver and 2 semiquavers beamed

2) page 4 line 1 left hand (Gray) bars 1 - 3 in bass clef bar 4 in treble clef; (Novello) all in bass clef

These differences don't affect the notes played, but I did find just two differences in the notes - the two alternatives I'd pencilled in are what is printed in the H. W. Gray edition!!

 

RAC

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