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Howells - Requiem - The Guardian

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The death from polio in 1935 of Herbert Howells’ nine-year-old son Michael left a permanent mark on his music. Howells’ most famous work Hymnus Paradisi was a memorial to his son that had its musical roots in the unaccompanied Requiem that he composed in the early 1930s, but which was only published just before his death in 1983. The Requiem, with its rather plain settings of Psalms 23 and 121 interleaved with more elaborate movements from the requiem mass, is the main work in Stephen Layton’s survey of Howells’ smaller-scale choral works. This also includes the Gloucester and St Paul’s Services, two settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, and the serenely beautiful setting of the medieval anthem Take Him Earth, For Cherishing, which Howells composed following the death of John F Kennedy, though once again the real dedicatee was his son. Layton’s performances have exactly the poise and careful moulding that this rather fragile, deeply felt music needs.


Andrew Clements

Howells - Requiem
Hyperion Records CDA67914