Notes and Editorial Reviews
Herbert Howells remains one of the most elusive, yet ultimately rewarding composers of the 20th century English Musical Renaissance. His style owes something to Vaughan Williams and the English pastoral school, but with a certain cosmopolitan polish and harmonic spice that could have come from Britten and his teacher, Frank Bridge. His choral writing is magnificent: very difficult, perfectly sonorous, and hugely expressive. Had it not been for his sensitive and retiring nature, aggravated at the height of his career by the tragic death of his young son, who knows what he might have gone on to achieve? As it is, there are some very substantial, indeed epic, works for chorus and orchestra, of which Hymnus Paradisi is by far the best known. Richard Hickox directs an extremely compelling performance, rising to climaxes of positively transcendental intensity (that of the fourth movement "Sanctus" is especially overwhelming). The coupling, a world premiere recording, makes an ideal contrast, showing the composer and his art at its most relaxed and rural. There's some really fine solo singing, particularly from baritone Alan Opie, and Chandos' recording is first rate. Howells is a great composer. Get to know him.
– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Hickox's soloists...are excellent...Hickox is equally well served by his BBC choral and orchestral forces and by his recording engineers...This is one of the best recordings of British music in years. Go for it.
– Fanfare [1-2/2000]
"The 'Hymnus Paradisi' is almost overwhelming in its affective grieving...without ever resorting to maudlin excess....The well-blended BBC Symphony Chorus sings with an enveloping warmth....the BBC Symphony Orchestra plays superbly." – Opera News [2/2000]