How­ells’s style

BBC Music Magazine - - Composer Of The Month -

Rich har­monies

How­ells de­vel­oped a mu­si­cal lan­guage that is un­like any­one else’s. It in­cludes long melodic lines, in­tri­cate coun­ter­point, rich dis­so­nances and unique ca­den­tial pro­gres­sions.

Pathos How­ells may have been the ‘golden boy’ of his mu­si­cal gen­er­a­tion and Stan­ford’s (pic­tured above) favourite, but his life was clouded by un­cer­tainty and tragedy. The am­bigu­ous re­cep­tion of cer­tain works and the loss of his son were re­flected in his mu­sic. His abil­ity to ex­press pathos and deep emo­tion in his mu­sic is in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful.

Con­nec­tion with a mu­si­cal past

Vaughan Wil­liams de­scribed How­ells as ‘the rein­car­na­tion of a lesser Tudor lu­mi­nary’ so strong was his con­nec­tion to the mu­sic of com­posers of that pe­riod. Ex­am­ples of this are ev­ery­where to be seen in How­ells’s out­put, and per­haps most ob­vi­ously in the suites How­ells’ Clavi­chord and Lam­bert’s Clavi­chord. Spir­i­tu­al­ity and Sen­su­al­ity How­ells was the great­est com­poser of mu­sic for the Angli­can Church of the 20th cen­tury. Part of his al­lure is his abil­ity to tread the line be­tween spir­i­tu­al­ity and sen­su­al­ity. The lat­ter in­duces a sense of ec­stasy which con­nects with our in­ner be­ings. It is at its best in the re­ver­ber­ant spa­ces of a great build­ing.

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