Richard Hickox

Howells: Orchestral Works

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A younger contemporary of Vaughan Williams, Bantock, and Boughton, Herbert Howells held promise as a hardworking, prolific composer of orchestral music, and he might have achieved comparable fame for his evocative and colorful scores. Even so, the ambitious and ingenious works of his youth, such as The B's, Op. 13 (1914) and Three Dances, Op. 7 (1914-1915), and his more mature pieces, which include the Pastoral Rhapsody (1923-1924) and the Fantasia for cello and orchestra (1936-1937), were long unperformed and virtually forgotten until after Howells died in 1983. The ensuing revival of his early orchestral music -- one fully deserved, and likely to continue -- has turned up some remarkable gems, many of which appear on this 2005 compilation from Chandos in sumptuous performances by Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra. The freshness of his "west-country" melodies, his nostalgically tinged scenes of rural life, and the sheer mastery of his orchestration should draw admiration from fans of English concert music, and increase Howells' reputation beyond the small, devoted circle that has long appreciated his sacred choral works. With impassioned solos from soprano Yvonne Kenny, violinist Lydia Mordkovitch, and cellist Moray Welsh, Hickox and the LSO deliver deeply enjoyable performances, and Chandos provides its usual high-quality sound.

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