> Herbert Howells: Decca British Music [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Herbert HOWELLS (1892 – 1983)
Collegium Regale Te Deum and Jubilate (1944)
Collegium Regale Office of Holy Communion (1956)
Collegium Regale Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (1945)
Preces and Responses 1 and 2 (1967)
Take Him, Earth for Cherishing (1964)
Psalm 121
Psalm 122
Psalm Prelude Op.32 No.2 (1916)a
Rhapsody for Organ Op.17 No.3 (1918)
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge; Gregory Moore (cantor); Simon Williams (tenor); Peter Barley (organ); Stephen Cleobury (director and organa)
Recorded: 1989 (presumably in King’s College Chapel)
DECCA 470 194-2 [78:28]

As is well known, Howells composed many services during his long and prolific composing life, of which the Collegium Regale written for King’s College, Cambridge, is the most substantial and – quite logically – has pride of place here. The Te Deum and Jubilate was composed in 1944 while the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis followed in 1945. The Office of Holy Communion was completed ten years later, in 1956.

Preces and Responses 1 and 2, written for Canterbury Cathedral in 1964, were composed in 1967. The present performance however raises a small documentary point, for it is sung here with organ accompaniment, whereas the late Christopher Palmer in his book on Howells (Herbert Howell: A Celebration – Thames Publishing 1996 [Second edition]) mentions the piece as being sung by unaccompanied mixed voices.

The motet Take Him, Earth, for cherishing was completed in 1964 following President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963. This is a setting of lines by Prudentius in Helen Waddell’s English translation which Howells originally intended to set in his Hymnus Paradisi written in memory of his son Michael, but which eventually appears as a preface to the score. So, the motet, though dedicated to President Kennedy’s memory, is yet another work in memory of Howells’ son.

The two psalm settings included here are something of an enigma, i.e. for the present writer at least, because I could not find any mention of them, either in Novello’s list of works or in Palmer’s. (The rather sketchy notes do not help either.)

Of Howells’s huge output of organ music, two short early works are included in this release. The first set of Psalm Preludes Op.32 was completed between 1915 and 1916, and Op.37 No.2 is heard here in a fine performance by Stephen Cleobury; whereas the Rhapsody for Organ Op.17 No.3 was written in 1918 in York during the Zeppelin raids over the city. It receives a very fine reading from Peter Barley.

This release will certainly be of interest to those who want to have the complete Collegium Regale service. Others will find here a worthwhile selection of Howells’ church music. The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge sings beautifully throughout and the whole is well recorded. The only liability here, a minor one though a frequent one in this otherwise worthwhile British Collection, is the rather sketchy presentation that does not include any texts at all; but this should definitely not deter anyone willing to investigate this welcome release.

Hubert Culot

see also review by Terry Barfoot

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