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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars World Premiere Recording
English composer Herbert Howells was born in 1892 in Lydney in Gloucestershire, England, the youngest of eight children in a family that struggled to maintain a livelihood. In 1915 at the age of twenty-three, he developed a severe case of hyperthyroidism and was given six months to live. With this death sentence, he agreed to try an untried new experiment with radium. He...
Published on 25 May 2007 by Phillip Tolley

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the piece I thought it was
Not the piece I thought it was
Published 5 months ago by Wild58


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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars World Premiere Recording, 25 May 2007
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English composer Herbert Howells was born in 1892 in Lydney in Gloucestershire, England, the youngest of eight children in a family that struggled to maintain a livelihood. In 1915 at the age of twenty-three, he developed a severe case of hyperthyroidism and was given six months to live. With this death sentence, he agreed to try an untried new experiment with radium. He was given radium treatments twice a week for two years. The treatments proved to be effective as Howells lived to age ninety. In 1920, he married Dorothy Dawe, a young singer. In 1923, they had a daughter, Ursula, and on April 12, 1926, a son, Michael. Nine years later on September 5, 1935, Michael died from Spinal Meningitis.

Hymnus Paradisi was the composer's response to the tragic loss of his son Years after his son's death, brought about by his daughter's persuasion that he should write a piece in his memory as a catharsis for his grief. The resulting work includes Psalm 23 and uses some of the text and music from an earlier requiem written in 1932, but which had never been performed. The Latin and English texts are taken from the Psalms, the Missa pro defunctis and the Salisbury Diurnal. The work was completed in short format in 1938 and having used its to achieved a personal peace at the loss of his son, the score was put away until 1949 when Herbert Sumsion approached Howells for a work for the 1950 Three Choirs Festival. Within the encouragement of Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi and Sir Adrian Boult, Howells orchestrated the work, composed the Preludio and with a title of Hymnus Paradisi suggested by Sumsion the work received its first performance in September 1950.

The other major work in this fine new recording, under the direction of David Hill, is the world premiere recording of Sir Patrick Spens. A traditional Scottish ballad for huge forces. It was written around 1922 when the composer was around 30 years of age, before Howells became anchored in his distinctive 'Anglican' style. It shows a very different side to composer's output, with very melodious almost folk-like tunes. It shows strong influences of Stanford in his use of folk-songs The story as told in the ballad has multiple versions, but they all follow the same basic plot. The King of Scotland has called for the greatest sailor in the land to command a ship for a royal errand. The name "Sir Patrick Spens" is mentioned by a courtier, and the king despatches a letter. Sir Patrick, though honoured to receive a royal commission, is dismayed at being put to sea in the dead of winter, clearly realising this voyage could well be his last. Versions differ somewhat at this point. Some indicate that a storm sank the ship in the initial crossing, thus ending the ballad at this point, while many have Sir Patrick safely reaching Norway. In Norway tension arises between the Norwegian lords and the Scots, who are accused of being a financial burden on the king. Sir Patrick, taking offence, leaves the following day. Nearly all versions, whether they have the wreck on the outward voyage or the return, relate the bad omen of seeing "the new moon late yestreen, with the auld moon in her arms". The winter storms have the best of the great sailor, sending him and the Scottish lords to the bottom of the sea. Naxos continues to warrant the gratitude of the English Choral Tradition for providing new and vibrant recordings of both well known and new pieces.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And passing wonderful..., 10 Dec. 2007
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I didn't know any of Howells' music before I caught part of the Hymnus Paradisi on the radio. What I did catch, however, inspired me to buy this CD. I find the whole of the Hymnus overwhelmingly gorgeous, particulary the Sanctus and Holy is the True Light.

As for Sir Patrick Spens, I have found it to be a grower, and now feel it has its own partcularly beautiful moments, especially the passage "I saw the moon late yestereen".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great CD - buy it, 1 Oct. 2014
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Amazon Customer (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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A beautiful recording of Howells. Well worthwhile purchasing. The sound quality of this CD is lovely, clear and distinct. A lovely mix of voices and the soloists are excellent. Delighted with this
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 9 Feb. 2015
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Interesting on first hearing
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6 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gushingly emotional, 4 Feb. 2008
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Aquinas "summa" (celestial heights, UK) - See all my reviews
This music is fairly emotional stuff; I don't think Hymnus Paradasi is as good as the earlier Requiem on which it is based. Perhaps it is just that the quality of the St John's naxos recording of the Requiem is just so good. I am inclined to think though that the gushy orchestration diminishes the work. Nonetheless, this is pleasing music. It may not be first rate (it goes without saying that Howells would not have been fit to tie the sandals of the Great composers), but that does not nean that one cannot derive pleasure from his music and thank him for his work.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the piece I thought it was, 25 Nov. 2014
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Wild58 (Westmorland) - See all my reviews
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Not the piece I thought it was
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