Album Review

Posted: Friday 11th June 2004
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Requiem Aeternam – Manchester Evening News

A friend and contemporary of Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells lost his nine-year-old son in 1935 to spinal meningitis, and the big choral and orchestral piece he composed as a memorial, Hymnus Paradisi, is rightly seen as his greatest achievement.

His a cappella Requiem, though, which was the quarry from which parts of Hymnus Paradisi came, was locked away in a drawer and not released until 1980, when he was nearing 90 years of age.

It is an intensely personal work, not a conventional requiem mass at all: other than two settings of the “Requiem Aeternam” words themselves, he uses passages from the Psalms and ancient prayers.

This young choir, under their gifted director, sing it with almost overwhelming vividness and intensity: if your reproduction equipment is not of the highest quality, it may not cope with some of the most impassioned passages.

Frank Martin’s Mass is a good companion for it, and Howells’ well known motet in memory of John F Kennedy completes the disc.

Robert Beale
Manchester Evening News