Herbery Howells (1892-1983) showed early and prolific talent which took him from his position as one of Sir Herbert Brewer 's articled pupils at Gloucester Cathedral, up to The Royal College of Music. His early compositions were rushed into print and gained a terrific following. In the years that were to follow, both inspiration and support were sometimes harder to come by. As we rightly view him now as a true 'Grand Old Man of English Music' it is sad to reflect on the times when his music was not well-received, and the nonsense which he often had to go through with his publishers who often refused to print things the way he wanted them.
The "Six Pieces" are a remarkable set. Written between 1940 and 1945 they naturally reflect the anxieties of war-time, but there is both a profound Englishness and confidence in God to be found in them.
The fourth, "Fugue, Chorale and Epilogue" is the the darkest of the group. Written in May 1940, the dark opening moves to the stunning climax of the "Chorale" is followed by a mood which at its most optimistic can best be described as patient suffering or longing.
The whole set is inscribed 'For Herbert Sumsion'. This is not exactly a dedication in the usual sense, as the inscription is in fact a statement of purpose - the performance Howells heard in his mind was one on the Willis/Harrison organ of Gloucester Cathedral which was always his favourite instrument and following the radical rebuilding carried out in 1971 is now sadly only a memory.
I have a personal favor to ask...
I am still suffering from severe hearing issues, and I recorded this when I had very little perception of "proper" sound and balance.
While my hearing seems pretty much OK at the moment I'm posting this, it will probably change again shortly.
If I'm getting balance wrong or weird, PLEASE TELL ME. It will help through this horrific time...