Christopher HOWELL (b.1953)
...And We Are Whole Again... (...Ecco, Siamo Guariti...): Hymns and Canti Biblici
Hymns and Canti Biblici - Set 1 [27:52]
Three Preludes for organ [7:20]
Hymns and Canti Biblici - Set 2 [27:38]
Caroline Goodwin (soprano)
Christopher Howell (organ)
rec. Parrocchia della Natività di Marla, Buffalona, Brescia, Italy, 26 April, 5 September 2011, 4 January 2012. DDD
Italy-based English pianist and organist Christopher Howell has been a regular feature of Sheva's releases - the booklet accompanying this new release lists thirteen separate recordings. This is only the second time, however, that he appears in his capacity as composer (see review of first), with this inspired collection of hymns and Biblical songs for the relatively rare combination of soprano and organ.
The hymns and songs are all originally Italian settings, but for this recording Howell has used English texts for the former - all the better to reach wider audiences, presumably. The complete work is divided into two groups, separated by three gentle organ preludes. The church setting is intimate, for settings that are themselves intimate, reflective and musically connected. The final items have a wistful, almost valedictory tone. Howell's own organ accompaniment is sensitively and sensibly low-key throughout. This is unpretentious, tuneful music that should appeal to congregations far and wide - but there is no reason for atheists not to like it either.
For purposes of authenticity, it is rarely wise to have songs with Italian texts performed by an English singer. Many well-known recordings, ignoring this precept, have been undermined by dubious pronunciation, but British-born soprano Caroline Goodwin has been living in Italy for the last two decades. Indeed, her Italian is excellent, with next to no indication of her foreign provenance. Her voice itself should have broad appeal, provided the listener has no strong aversion to breathiness or vibrato. Her enunciation is generally good in both languages, although in higher dynamics she occasionally sacrifices clarity for power. Howell's music frequently tests her breath control with very long phrases, made all the harder by plunges into lower registers.
Technical quality is good, despite the fact that the recordings took place over three widely separated sessions. The only blot is a strange, momentary loss of stereo halfway through track 12, soon followed by an editing join of some description. Booklet notes are fairly minimalist and written in a slightly odd-sounding English, although full sung texts with English/Italian translations and detailed biographies are provided.
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Unpretentious and tuneful … should appeal to congregations far and wide.

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