A Hearty Hearth Of Howells String Music

Review by: Victor Carr Jr


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 9

Here is an enjoyable album of 20th-century British string music. If you don’t know the composer Herbert Howells, familiarity with the string works of Vaughan Williams (and a bit of Britten) will give you some idea of what to expect.

Howells’ Concerto for String Orchestra features two strong and stirring outer movements brimming with rhythmic vitality, while the somber and serious Quasi Lento, composed after the death of Howells’ son, builds to an emotional climax. Modeled on Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia, Howells’ Elegy for Viola, String Quartet, and String Orchestra showcases the solo viola as it leads us on an inward journey of tender reflection.

Howells’ First Suite for String Orchestra is not really so, as the actual first one ended up providing material for the above concerto. In the present suite, Howells’ extensive use of modal techniques again calls Vaughan Williams to mind. The four movements run the gamut from lively dancing to subdued contemplation. Finally, the brief, lightly flowing Serenade for Strings provides aural refreshment as Howells, freed from the self-imposed modal strictures of the First Suite, allows himself to explore a wider range of harmonic styles.

Richard Hickox leads highly engaging performances with the City of London Sinfonia. Chandos’ recording boasts clarity and wide dynamic range along with, as is their trademark style, a bit too much reverb.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Music For Strings
    Concerto for String Orchestra; Elegy for Viola, String Quartet, & String Orchestra; First Suite for String Orchestra; Serenade for Strings

    City of London Sinfonia, Richard Hickox

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