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Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Piano Quartet in A minor Op. 21 (1916) [27:59]
Fantasy String Quartet Op. 25 (1917) [13:06]
Rhapsodic Quintet for clarinet, two violins, viola and cello Op. 31 (1919) [12:12]
Richards Piano Quartet (Bernard Roberts (piano); Nona Liddell (violin); Jean Stewart (viola); Bernard Richards (cello)) with Thea King (clarinet)
rec. Walthamstow Assembly Hall, June 1973 (Piano Quartet); Sept 1973 (other works). ADD
LYRITA SRCD.292 [53.20]

Experience Classicsonline

Although all of these works were composed when Herbert Howells was still in his 20s, they nonetheless show a composer who has already found his voice, who has developed both a strong musical personality and an excellent grasp of how to phrase what he wants to say.

The Piano Quartet in A minor was submitted by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Howells’s teacher at the Royal College of Music, for inclusion in the Carnegie Foundation publication series. It had the honour of being the first score, and the only one by an as yet unfamiliar name, to be published by the Carnegie Trust. It is dedicated to the "hill at Chosen and Ivor Gurney who knew it". Chosen, or Churchdown Hill is a great mound of a hill between Cheltenham and Gloucester that offers spectacular panoramic views and was a favourite haunt of Herbert Howells and the friend of his youth, Ivor Gurney. The quartet reflects this most quintessentially English of places and also the warmth and affection which Howells held for both this place, and for Gurney. The Richards Piano Quartet give a passionate and intelligent performance of this glorious work, creating great sonority, and allowing the nostalgia and yearning to shine through. Theirs is a wonderfully rich sound, and they instil in the music an incredible intensity, and a searing beauty. The ensuing Fantasy String Quartet is likewise played with immense sensitivity, and the Rhapsodic Quintet, that concludes the disc - like the Quartet, a work in one movement - is given a superbly sinuous clarinet line that is expertly performed by Thea King.

There is something incredibly English about these works, and they sum up all the poetry and beauty, and, occasionally, the melancholy and harshness, of the English countryside, depicting it in all its moods and through all forces of nature. Exemplary performances of extremely moving, accomplished and utterly gorgeous pieces!

Em Marshall





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