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Herbert Howells in the B&H Choral Treasury

(February 2013)

Explorations of Herbert Howells's catalogue with Boosey & Hawkes reveal works now restored to print in the new Choral Treasury series and the composer's moving Elegy for viola and strings, written in tribute to a friend killed in the First World War.

A selection of choral music by Herbert Howells dating from the 1920s and ’30s has been restored to the catalogue in the recently launched Choral Treasury series drawing upon the Boosey & Hawkes archive. These attractive works have been recorded on a Howells disc by the BBC Singers for future release. The collection of choral music will grow in coming years, as new SATB arrangements of the composer’s songs will be published in collaboration with the Herbert Howells Society. Please visit www.boosey.com/choraltreasury.

The Shadows provides a good introduction to Howells’s distinctive soundworld, combining the modal chord streams of Vaughan Williams with Tudor counterpoint and rich, sensual harmonies. One of his finest songs, King David, setting a poem by the composer’s friend Walter de la Mare, is now available in an SATB arrangement by Iain Farrington, which captures the shift from doleful melancholy to peaceful balm as the king hears a nightingale in a cypress tree. Howells’s version of A New Year Carol provides a joyful greeting for upper voices, while Good Counsel is a unison setting of Chaucer’s advice for ‘life’s pilgrim’.

Another Howells early gem in the Boosey & Hawkes catalogue is the Elegy for solo viola, string quartet and string orchestra. Dating from 1917, the work is modelled on the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and was a personal tribute to a fellow student at the Royal College of Music killed in the First World War. It is a prescient early pointer towards Howells’s later memorial works and worthy to be programmed alongside English string classics by Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Finzi and Britten. The Elegy is included in a collection of repertoire suitable for the War and Peace commemorations over the coming years: www.boosey.com/warandpeace.

> Listen to an audio clip of Howells's Elegy


> Further information on Work: Elegy

Photo: Herbert Howells c1920, copyright image courtesy of the Herbert Howells Society

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