One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom



alternatively Crotchet  

Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Piano Quartet in A minor Op. 21 (1916) [26:40]
Phantasy String Quartet op. 25 (1917) [13:37]
Rhapsodic Quintet for clarinet and string quartet op. 31 (1919) [12:23]
The Lyric Quartet; Andrew West (piano); Michael Collins (clarinet)
rec. St. Silas Church, London NW5, 6-8 April 1992. DDD
METIER MSVCD92003 [52:40]

These are old friends in two senses. These recordings were first issued by Metier in 1992. With that label now under the wing of The Divine Art – an increasingly perceptive reputation in the land – the disc has been re-released.

As a group of works they have been coupled before. In the mid-1970s Lyrita Recorded Edition LP SRCS 68 had them played by the Richards Piano Quartet (Bernard Roberts (piano), Nona Liddell (violin), Jean Stewart (viola), Bernard Richards (cello)) with Thea King (clarinet). The effect was revelatory. Few of us knew the works before then although the Piano Quartet had been broadcast as part of an ambitious early-1970s BBC Radio 3 series called England’s Green and Pleasant Land. Christopher Palmer’s little Novello book on Howells was also to instil curiosity and later enthusiasm. This music - of or just after the Great War - was the work of a pastoral master who had shaken off the Stanford-Brahmsian dust. When vinyl died to all practical intents and purposes circa 1986 the Lyrita LP disappeared. It later became a prohibitively high value item on the internet. It was reissued only this month (November 2007) as Lyrita SRCD.245. With a playing time of 53.20 there’s very little in it between the two discs in terms of sheer timings.

The Piano Quartet was written in the depths of the Great War. This perhaps accounts for the terrific urgency and even desperation of Howells’ writing in the Allegro Moderato first movement at 4:03. The music is deeply romantic and warmly cocooned, these being qualities favoured and accentuated by the acoustic. Folksong is an integral part of the fabric of this writing and one can easily feel the plangent Lento as predictive of later works by Moeran and even Finzi. The ecstatically complex exuberance of the Allegro molto plays the boundaries between bell-tones, the caress of summer zephyrs and chilly intimations of Housman’s ‘steady drummer’. The other element is folk dance with shades of Grainger and even Stravinsky. It’s all wonderfully handled by the Lyric Quartet players and Andrew West. Individual players eloquently cut through the textures just as the score requires.

The Piano Quartet plays for about half an hour while the other two pieces time out at barely 13 minutes each. The Phantasy String Quartet, like the Rhapsodic Quintet, is in a single movement. It is done with wonderful gravity and speaks of nature spirituality yet without John Ireland’s mystery. It is music caught up in the glories of landscape but then patters along singing a long-lined melody of strolling and sun-dappled confidence. The Rhapsodic Quintet seems a further unbuttoning of classical restraints. While the Phantasy Quartet is a step away from the shreds of formality in the Piano Quartet the Rhapsodic Quintet takes that next step into freedom. The music sweeps along - a spontaneous response to the moment. A haunted but not at all macabre second half rises to a new lyrical density but then fades back to an epilogue of lump-in–the-throat meditative beauty. It’s just a small step away from Zemlinsky’s quartets in similar mood.

The notes are by Paul Spicer who has done so much for Finzi and Howells amongst many others. The monochrome presentation of the booklet and the uncredited line drawing are all attractive and apposite. The only thing that tells against the disc, and then only by a shading, is the rather warmly bathed acoustic. I would have wished for a shade more impact but then I would have had to sacrifice the mystery so lovingly conveyed. I hope to be able to compare the Lyrita disc before too long.

Rob Barnett

see also


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos 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

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

August 2022

Louis Caix d'Hervelois

orchestral songs



String Quartets

la folia



July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I




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.