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HOWELLS: Hymnus paradisi / Sir Patrick Spens

Composer(s):Howells, Herbert
Period(s) 20th Century
Genre Classical Music
Category Choral - SacredChoral - Secular
Catalogue 8.570352
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps
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Herbert Howells is known chiefly for his church music, arguably the finest by any English composer of the twentieth century. Sir Patrick Spens, Howells’ first attempt at writing a large-scale choral work, has received only one known performance until this recording. Hymnus paradisi was composed under heart-breaking circumstances following the death of the composer’s son, Michael, aged nine. As Howells later wrote: ‘The sudden loss of an only son … might impel a composer … to seek release and consolation in a language and terms most personal to him. Music may well have power … to offer that release and comfort. It did so in my case.’ Throughout this deeply moving work, in which the human tragedy of a boy’s death and a father’s grief are enshrined, Howells’ command


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Review By Penguin Guide,January 2009

David Hill directs a superb version of Howells’s Hymnus Paradisi with excellent soloists, choir and orchestra. His account is direct and fresh, exciting in the more flamboyant parts of the score, such as in the Sanctus, yet relaxing beautifully in the reflective passages. Sir Patrick Spens, written at the age of 25, was Howells’s first major large-scale choral work. It opens with tremendous gusto, a bracing, briny, swashbuckling adventure which befits the nautical story of the text. It is excitingly and vividly performed here, with a superb recording to match.

Review By James McCarthy,Limelight Magazine,November 2007

Herbert Howells was the composer who, even more than Vaughan Williams, gave a contemporary 20th century sound to the Anglican liturgy. Hymnus paradisi is one of Howells’ most celebrated works. …the performance and recording are excellent…[Sir Patrick] Spens is a roistering, rambunctious piece for soloists, choir and orchestra. Naxos claims that apart from one performance by students in 1930, this is its first outing, certainly its first recording. Based on a Scottish ballad, it tells of the disastrous attempt to bring the daughter of Norway’s King to the King of Scotland. It’s a good piece.

Review By UK,Naxos,June 2007

�Chivalric duty sent Sir Patrick Spens to a watery grave. Herbert Howells rip-roaring setting of the ancient Scottish sea-ballad, usually dismissed as a flawed early work, emerges as a neglected treasure in this world premiere recording. With its echoes of Stanford and Vaughan Williams�s a Sea Symphony, Sir Patrick Spens imposes a commanding presence from the off. The score also contains passages of beauty � notably so in its lament for Sir Patrick and his companions. David Hill�s deeply felt account of the Hymnus Paradisi, fine solo contributions and glorious all-round music making make this an unmissable release.� Andrew Stewart - Classic fM Magazine July Issue - Opera and Vocal review 5*



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