Mass History
Musical History
Notes on Requiem


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Herbert Howells

When Howells began his Requiem in 1932 it was originally intended for King's College Cambridge (although there is no record of it ever having been sent there). It was a work in the same tradition as his earlier Mass in the Dorian Mode arising from his experiences of Tudor polyphony whilst studying with R R Terry at Westminster Cathedral, and out of a desire to provide direct, unaccompanied settings of text for liturgical use. Its musical style is developed also from techniques learnt with Charles Wood and from earlier examples of the genre such as Walford Davies' Requiem.   The piece does not entirely take the traditional liturgical text for a Latin Requiem, but, in the same manner of Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem uses devotional psalms and scriptural passages. In a foretaste of tragedy, Howells noted that his son, Michael, (then aged six) had made his mark on the score (he added a note); three years later, Michael died of meningitis, an event that was to influence Howells for the rest of his life. Howells' great musical outpouring of grief for his lost son, Hymnus Paradisi, which was first performed only in 1950 at Vaughan Williams' urging, is based on material taken from the Requiem. The Requiem itself was not published until 1980.


Barry Creasy


Collegium Musicum of London

(Reproduce with permission from Mr Creasy)


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Revised: 07/01/05 20:36:36 -0400.