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By any standards, this recording of Howell’s Missa Sabriensis (Mass of the Severn) is a major event and superior in every way to the work’s previous account on disc. Composed for the 1954 Three Choirs Festival, the Missa Sabrinensis unfolds as a powerful choral symphony, especially rich in counterpoint, formal structure and independent orchestral writing. While its musical language is always recognisably Howells, it nevertheless embraces something of the Gallic impressionist beauty of Debussy and Ravel. Led by conductor David Hill, who clearly believes in every note of this piece, the Bach Choir, BBC Concert Orchestra and the fine quartet of soloists offer an exhilarating performance, which reveals this work to be a forgotten British masterpiece from the middle of the 20th century. The brief makeweight is an arrangement of Howells’s most celebrated hymn tune, named after his son who died, aged 9.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica


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