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Geraint Lewis
Gramophone, November 2015

…A moving performance from the college where Howells was wartime organist. © 2015 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Sinfini Music, August 2014

One of an outstanding series of later English choral music recordings from a great choir at the peak of its form. Also the most atmospheric and terrifying recording of Howells’s best Magnificat setting of them all. © 2014 Sinfini Music

Brian Wilson Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, June 2011

The Naxos recording marked the beginning of a fruitful partnership with St John’s. It contains versions of the Requiem and Take him, earth which are more than capable of competing with its rivals and, at Naxos price, CD and download are on a par price-wise with the Chandos twofer which contains those works…

Penguin Guide, January 2009

No composer this century has surpassed Herbert Howells in the beauty and imagination of his Anglican church music. Naxos here offers a generous selection, in seductive performances from the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, that match and almost surpass any previous versions. This will have  King’s Choir down the road looking to its laurels, helped by immaculate sound, at once atmospheric and cleanly focused.

David Vernier, June 2000

Herbert Howells' choral masterpiece, the Requiem, has been well served on CD and this performance from one of Cambridge's legendary choirs adds itself to the list of solid, thoughtful, well-prepared readings. For all its sincerity and technical polish, however, it can't compete with the performance by the Corydon Singers (Hyperion), which finds and conveys a deeply moving spirituality in the work that few other choirs achieve (the Finzi Singers' very resonant recording for Chandos is one). Compare, for instance, the disturbingly beautiful "Requiem aeternam (1)" movements: the St. John's choir shaves this crucial section down to just under three minutes; the Finzi gives it nearly three and three-quarters minutes, the Corydon almost four and one half! What's going on here is not just some pretty willful conducting - the score gives a clear tempo indication of "quarter note equals 56", to which the Finzi group adheres most closely - but the explication of considerably different understandings of the Requiem's overall structure and the purpose of this movement's place in it. Sustained, suspenseful meditation is the point, following the confident declarations of Psalm 23 and preceding the Psalm 121, whose text gives reassurance of the Lord's eternal watch and care over us. The St. John's choir just doesn't give us quite the physical time or the spiritual sense of timelessness that Howell's music can and should deliver here.

Of course, it takes a strong, well-disciplined, and mature choir to do this, and this piece may be slightly beyond these singers' reach. The rest of the program is much more firmly in the choir's grasp of music and meaning, from the delightful anthem Like as the hart, the engaging, masterful setting of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, and the oft-recorded gem Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing, commissioned for the Washington Cathedral memorial service for John F. Kennedy in 1964. The organ solos by Iain Farrington are lovely and powerful, spacious yet detailed, a fair match for both Stephen Cleobury's Rhapsody (Argo) and Edward Higginbottom's Paean (CRD).

Howells was largely responsible for creating, through its textures and harmonic language, music that has come to define the sound of 20th century English church music. Rising from the influences of Vaughan Williams, Stanford, Parry, and Holst, his compositional style took a turn off the well-trod path of his predecessors, slightly more daring, more challenging, yet always well-crafted and serious. This fine program contains many and varied examples that show why Howells will be regarded as one of the last century's most influential and original composers.

American Record Guide, May 2000

"The St. Johns Choir has never sounded better, and the recorded sound is glorious: clear and clean, but with great warmth and a sense of space. The finely nuanced performances are impressively controlled. This disc is a must-have for connoisseurs of English cathedral music and a great introduction to Howells for the novice."

John Steane
Gramophone, January 2000

"The series should prove to be a timely enrichment of the Naxos catalogue and is off to an excellent start."

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