MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Buy through MusicWeb from £11.00 postage paid World-wide. Try it on Sale or Return
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contact for details

Musicweb Purchase button


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)); Thea King (clarinet)
rec. Walthamstow Assembly Hall, June 1973 (Piano Quartet); Sept 1973 (other works). ADD
LYRITA SRCD.292 [53.20]

Experience Classicsonline

In his splendid booklet note the late Christopher Palmer describes Howells memorably as "the last of the great English romantics whose tongues were loosened by folksong". The three works gathered on this CD are all suffused with a wonderful English character. Although no folksongs are used the thematic material is manifestly influenced by the treasure trove of native popular melody that had been so effectively mined, preserved and liberated by Vaughan Williams, Holst and others.

The Piano Quartet may well have the unique distinction of being the only piece of music dedicated to a hill. It bears the inscription "to the hill at Chosen and Ivor Gurney who knew it." Chosen Hill is a prominent feature of the landscape between Cheltenham and Gloucester and it is situated just two or three miles from where I live. Over the years since 1916, when Howells wrote his Quartet, many buildings, many of them houses, have been built on or around Chosen Hill. However, in the early years of the twentieth century, when Gurney and Howells were taking their first steps in musical education together at Gloucester Cathedral, the seven or eight miles between Gloucester and Cheltenham would have been almost entirely rural and amongst the farms and hamlets Chosen Hill would have been an even more impressive landmark than it remains today. More importantly the views from the crest of the hill, stretching over miles of open countryside on a clear day, undoubtedly fired the imagination of impressionable creative young men such as Howells and Gurney.

So affection for his surroundings as well as for his friend was the spur for Howells in this Quartet. It’s an ambitious work, cast in three movements The substantial first movement seems to me to be especially suggestive of the English countryside. There’s an air of sophisticated naivety to the music, which has a wonderful harmonic richness – and a richness of texture as well. The melodic material sounds free and uninhibited and the whole movement exudes confidence. The tranquil conclusion sets the scene perfectly for the slow movement, which is a slow processional. This movement contains some truly beautiful music and it’s played with nobility and sensitivity. The finale is an excellent foil to what has gone before. Much of the music in this movement is sprightly and dance-like and on the occasions when Howells explores a lyrical byway he does so without sacrificing overall momentum. The Quartet is a fine composition. As Christopher Palmer says, it’s "a rich piece, fluently written and full-bloodedly expressive." The members of the Richards Piano Quartet are splendid advocates for it.

The Fantasy String Quartet is in one movement. It is quintessentially romantic and, like the Piano Quartet, it sounds to be rooted in folksong. Actually, once again all the melodic material is original so a more accurate description would perhaps be "inspired by folksong". It’s a lovely, free-spirited piece and it’s very well performed by a group of players who combine strength and beauty in their reading. One passage above all ravishes the ear, namely a spell of quiet musing led by a husky viola around 6:00. There’s another performance of this piece on a Naxos disc that I reviewed a while ago. That too is very good but this Lyrita account is fully its equal. The Quartet is the only work that is common to both discs so the Howells enthusiast will surely want to have both.

The Rhapsodic Quintet, in which Howells combines a clarinet with a string quartet, is another one-movement work. Christopher Palmer aptly describes the piece as "a continuous self-generating stream of song". The songful nature of the music is emphasised by the woody tones of the clarinet, excellently played here by the late Thea King, and the contrast of timbre between the clarinet and the string ensemble is stimulating to the ear. The Quintet is not as pastoral in tone, nor is it quite as obviously English in tone, as its two companion pieces. It’s no less attractive than the other two works but I find that sometimes there’s a pleasing degree of pungency in the music that’s not so apparent elsewhere. The last few minutes (from around 9:00) are gorgeous with a long, melting clarinet melody leading the argument as Howells brings the Quintet to a very beautiful close.

In her enthusiastic review of this disc my colleague Em Marshall summed up the quality and calibre of these works most eloquently. I can do no better than to quote her summary: "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."

This is another reissue from Lyrita that’s as welcome and self-recommending as it is important. All admirers of Herbert Howells’ music will want to have these first rate performances in their collection.

John Quinn

And a review of the same coupling in differing versions on Metier


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.