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Howells: Violin Sonatas, Etc / Barritt, Edwards


Release Date: 02/10/2004 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55139   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Herbert Howells
Performer:  Paul BarrittCatherine Edwards
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

On the face of it the difference between 'early' and 'mature' Herbert Howells is easily explicable, since the date that separates them is that of the most traumatic event in his life, the death of his only son. The characteristic elegiac vein of mature Howells and the centrally important place of religious music in his later output can indeed be ascribed to this, but the gradual rediscovery of his youthful compositions (he had just turned 30 when he wrote the latest work in this collection) points up other differences between 'early' and 'mature' that may need other explanations. Why, for example, did Howells withdraw and never publish the strongest piece here, the Second Violin Sonata (exactly as he withdrew and seemingly tried to forget Read more the Second Piano Concerto)? Why did he become conspicuously less prolific as he matured, much less ready to take on large-scale abstract forms, and with a curious willingness to keep works in his desk, unperformed for many years? One can understand this in the case of the Hymnus Paradisi, conceived as a private memorial and exorcism of grief, but why did he work on and off for 16 years on a cello concerto and still not finish it, why complete A Kent Yeoman's Wooing Song in draft and leave it unscored for 20 years?

An acute sensitivity to criticism is often put forward as the answer to such questions. It must indeed have been acute to have stemmed the urgent fluency of the music on this disc. We expect ample lyricism, vigorous energy and formal ingenuity (the Second Piano Concerto, now rediscovered and recently recorded by Kathryn Stott—Hyperion, 3/93—has all those in abundance) and we're not disappointed. We also expect from these as yet untroubled years untroubled geniality, but the Second Violin Sonata almost shockingly contradicts this. It is a work of dark, intense eloquence, grandly confident in its big gestures; there is not a trace of the elegiac to it, but not a trace either of rhapsody or pastoral. The First Sonata is often very lovely, once or twice a little too fertile to be focused, the Third is a fascinating interplay of gentle lyricism and bold vigour, but in the Second you can hear in much more than embryo form the mature symphony, quartet and concerto that Howells never wrote.

First-rate playing and a clean but not antiseptic recording make this a most enjoyable collection (with the exception of a student sonata and a couple of test-pieces all Howells's music for violin and piano is here). The presence of that powerful Second Sonata, played with inspiriting conviction of its mastery, makes it a perplexingly revelatory one as well: why did Howells withdraw from that path?

-- Gramophone [3/1994]
reviewing the original release of this title, Hyperion 66665
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in E major, Op. 18 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Paul Barritt (Violin), Catherine Edwards (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; England 
2.
Cradle Song for Violin and Piano, Op. 9 no 1 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Catherine Edwards (Piano), Paul Barritt (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; England 
3.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3 in E minor, Op. 38 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Paul Barritt (Violin), Catherine Edwards (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; England 
4.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 in E flat major, Op. 26 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Paul Barritt (Violin), Catherine Edwards (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; England 
5.
Pastorale, Op. 28 no 2 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Paul Barritt (Violin), Catherine Edwards (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1918; England 
6.
Chosen Tune, Op. 28 no 3 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Paul Barritt (Violin), Catherine Edwards (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1918; England 
7.
Luchinushka, Op. 28 no 4 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Catherine Edwards (Piano), Paul Barritt (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1918; England 

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