Howells: Lambert’s Clavichord; Howells’s Clavichord

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Howells
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Lambert’s Clavichord; Howells’s Clavichord
PERFORMER: John McCabe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66689 DDD
The reputation of Herbert Howells rests chiefly on his religious choral music, but he was also a master of other genres: of orchestral music and, as these discs confirm, of the piano. Since Margaret Fingerhut’s recital features pieces which span Howellscareer and stylistic range, it provides an ideal introduction for the layman.

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John McCabe’s excellent disc concentrates on the miniatures written for either piano or clavichord which were inspired by the example of the Tudor Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. They immortalise Howells’s friends through a series of musical portraits (as in Elgar’s Enigma Variations) and McCabe catches their mood perfectly. In the four items from Lambert’s Clavichord (Herbert, not Constant), the only music common to both discs, his clear and direct approach has the edge, though Fingerhut’s more indulgent manner remains admissible enough.

These ‘clavichord’ pieces encompass a variety of moods, from the deeply-felt ‘Finzi’s Rest’ to the lively ‘Boult’s Brangill’ and ‘Bliss’s Ballet’. The Chandos disc also concentrates on miniatures, though the Rhapsody and the late Sonatina (1971) are more substantial, the latter’s finale deriving from an enthusiasm for Petrushka which had begun 50 years before.

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These beautifully recorded and well documented discs can be recommended with confidence. Terry Barfoot