Herbert Howells Choral Music

Volume Two is blessed by a wonderful recording of the Three Carol-Anthems, with the boys making an excellent alternative to the usual women (CHAN 9458). However it is the inclusion of the Missa Aedis Christe of 1958, which is the stand-out here. Although written for the bigger more troublesome acoustic of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford it sounds magnificent here. The collection concludes with a beautiful rendition of the large-scale motet Where wast thou? from 1948. This could be seen as an ideal bookend to the two discs. (Volume 1)

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Of the organ music performed on these discs, volume one contains the most interesting and rarer pieces. We get three transcriptions from the clavichord works, the first, De La Mare’s Pavane, by Howells himself, whilst Walton’s Toye and Jacob’s Brawl were transcribed by the great Howells scholar Christopher Palmer, who also wrote the excellent booklet notes. They are played here, as with the rest of the organ pieces, by the organ scholar, David Burchell. His performances are strong and well paced, with there being little to choose between these performances and the other versions of the works that I have.

The Choir of New College are in excellent form. I was lucky to spend a couple of years in Oxford at the end of the 1980s and whilst there I spent as much time listening to choral music as I could. I soon came to the conclusion that this was the best collegiate choir in Oxford if not the country. I even heard them perform many of the items sung here, so these discs bring back many a good memory. 

Stuart Sillitoe, MusicWeb-International.com

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