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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    




Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Te Deum & Jubilate
Office of Holy Communion
Psalm Prelude, Opus 32 No. 2
Preces & Responses, I & II
Psalm 121
Psalm 122
Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis
Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing
Rhapsody for organ, Opus 17 No. 3

Gregory Moore (cantor, Simon Williams (tenor), Peter Barley (organ)
Choir of King's College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury
Rec 1989, Decca
DECCA 470 194 2 [78.28] Midprice


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Decca's British Music Collection is reissuing some excellent recordings of repertoire which deserves the highest levels of recognition. This Howells disc is one such example, well recorded twelve years ago in idiomatic and sensitive performances by artists who have the music in their blood.

Although Howells has a wider range than the music featured here, it remains a central aspect of his achievement. Nor should it remained cloistered within a church context; it should be heard and appreciated as widely as possible. On those grounds alone a recording has to be welcomed; but there is more to it than that, since the performances are so sensitively drawn.

Much of this music was composed for King's College Cambridge, the performers on this CD. And whereas listeners might more normally hear just individual pieces in the context of music by other composers, this compilation makes it possible to place the pieces in a more consistent context as it relates to Howells himself. The range features both subtlety and sheer splendour, not least because of the telling contributions of organist Peter Barley, who Stephen Cleobury his own special chance to shine in playing the imaginative Rhapsody from Howells's Opus 17.

However, Barley's playing has great refinement when required, adding much to the eloquence and sensitivity of the performances. A particular highlight is the motet Save Him, Earth, for Cherishing, which Howells wrote in 1967, following the assassination of President Kennedy.

If occasionally a more full toned choral contribution might have been more fulfilling, the compensations among these performances outweigh the doubts by some considerable margin. The booklet notes are on the short side, which is strange, considering that the majority of the eight pages are left blank.

Terry Barfoot

 


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