- Sine nomine: A Phantasy, for soprano, tenor, chorus & orchestra, Op. 37
In 1935, the son of the composer Herbert Howells died at the age of nine, of polio. The event was a formative one in Howells' life, and he returned to it repeatedly in his music as late as the "Stabat Mater" of 1959-1965. This is an especially anguished work that should put to rest the reputation of English music as cool and unemotional. In seven movements, it opposes an ethereal solo tenor, here the gorgeous-voiced Benjamin Hulett, to the sweeping imagery in the choir. Hulett appears once again in the wordless "Sine nomine" of 1922, at the other end of Howells' creative life. The Bach Choir and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under David Hill seem uncannily idiomatic in this work, so full of Impressionist harmonies and yet totally English, and in the "Stabat Mater," performed here for the first time with some manuscript alterations in Howells' hand, they achieve a genuinely moving performance. The "Te Deum," whose 1977 orchestral version is also rarely performed, is a more festive piece and here serves as an effective entr'acte. Howells is not everyone's cup of tea, and some may prefer the more pristine Chandos acoustic in this kind of music, but for many it will be a sterling example of Howells' ability to infuse personal emotion into a rather formal style.