HERBERT HOWELLS (1892 - 1983)
Herbert Howells started his musical career as a cathedral organist. He succeeded Gustav Holst as director of music at St Paul’s Girls’ School in London and taught composition for many years at the Royal College of Music. A pupil of Stanford and Charles Wood at the Royal College, he wrote music within the prevailing English tradition, showing some affinity with Vaughan Williams in his choral music.
The orchestral music of Howells includes two piano concertos, a Pastoral Rhapsody and, in 1949, Music for a Prince. The Concerto for strings of 1939 was followed by a Suite, also for string orchestra.
Howells wrote an interesting Phantasy Quartet and a later string quartet, In Gloucestershire. Among other compositions for instrumental ensemble are a Rhapsodic Quintet for clarinet and string quartet, sonatas for oboe and for clarinet and piano, and three violin sonatas.
As an organist by training, Howells added significantly to the repertoire of English organ music, notably in two organ sonatas, four organ rhapsodies, and sets of psalm preludes.
Vocal and Choral Music
Hymnus Paradisi, written in 1938, a requiem for the composer’s son, was first performed at the Three Choirs Festival in the West of England in 1950, when it won considerable success. In it Howells used elements drawn from his earlier Requiem, written for King’s College Choir. Hymnus Paradisi was followed by the Missa Sabrinensis and a setting of the Stabat mater. Howells also contributed to the repertoire of church music for the Church of England, with anthems and motets well suited to resonant cathedral acoustics. His songs include settings of a number of poems by his friend Walter de la Mare.