Christopher Howell was born in London. After picking up a few rudiments from his grandfather, a piano tuner who had published a couple of pieces in his youth, he had his first piano lessons from the resident teacher of the Caldecott Community, Betty Rayment. He conducted a composition of his own at the age of 14 and gave his first piano recital before leaving school. He also played the organ in the Caldecott Community chapel and has maintained an interest in the organ. His subsequent teachers included two professors of the Royal Academy of Music, Alexander Kelly and Else Cross. He obtained the L.R.A.M. and a B.Mus. with honours at Edinburgh University, where he studied piano with Colin Kingsley and composition with Kenneth Leighton and Edward Harper. In this period he appeared as soloist and chamber musician and formed and directed a small choir. He won a scholarship to complete his piano studies in Milan with Ilonka Deckers-Küszler and gave recitals in Italy and the UK. He has also appeared in Germany (Munich) and France (Nice).
In 1993 he recorded a CD of piano music by Cyril Scott. He later recorded a CD of music by Harold Craxton and, with the cellist Alison Moncrieff Kelly, the cello sonatas of C.V. Stanford on Meridian. He also appears as an organist. His compositions have been performed in Milan, Magenta, Turin and Munich. In 2009, at the Spazio Tadini, he collaborated in the realization of a homage to Gianandrea Gavazzeni, in which works for voice and piano by the maestro were interpreted by Denia Mazzola Gavazzeni.
Christopher Howell has recorded for Sheva “Cypresses”, a cycle of his own compositions for piano, “Land of Sunset Glories” (piano music by C.V Stanford), “An Englishman in Italy” (British piano music inspired by Italy), songs by Chopin and Moniuszko with the mezzo-soprano Magdalena Aparta, a CD of British clarinet music (C.H. Lloyd, Stanford, Hurlstone, C.A. Gibbs, Finzi) and “Fiori rossiniani” (music by and inspired by Rossini) with the clarinettist Alessandro Travaglini, “Songs of Old Ireland” (Irish folksongs arranged by C.V. Stanford) and “Dedicated to Donizetti” (music by and inspired by Donizetti) with the flautist Gilberto Fornito, “Tosti and Friends” (English songs by Italian composers) with the soprano Ninny Nobile and “Passé” (romantic song in Italy) and “My heart is like a singing bird” (songs by British composers to texts by Christina Rossetti) with the mezzo-soprano Elisabetta Paglia. As organist he has recorded CDs of Christmas organ music, short pieces by Samuel Wesley and, with the soprano Caroline Goodwin, a collection of his own Bible and hymn settings.
His latest recording for Sheva is a set of 3 CDs dedicated to the complete works of C.V. Stanford for violin and piano, in which he is joined by the Italian violinist Alberto Bologni. The set contains some unpublished works which Christopher Howell edited specially for the project. The March 2014 issue of “BBC Music Magazine” commented that the music would “appeal well beyond the world of the specialist”, adding that “Christopher Howell’s accompaniments throughout are a model of sage expertise, as are his detailed and engaging booklet notes”.
As a writer on music, Christopher Howell provided the article on Harold Craxton for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He has been a regular contributor to MusicWeb-International for a number of years.
March 2014Return to Classical Music Web contributors page