John McCabe's recording of Herbert Howells' clavichord music is a chance to hear some twentieth century music inspired by C.P.E. Bach's favorite instrument. While other composers were re-discovering the harpsichord, Howells' love for early English music and the instruments of two modern clavichord makers led to the composition of the three sets of miniatures: Lambert's Clavichord and Howells' Clavichord Books One and Two. Howells dedicated every piece in each set to a friend, and in the last two sets he even sometimes attempted to put something of the dedicatee into the music, whether it was a description of that person's character or an imitation of a fellow composer's style. Howells' titles, and in many instances the style of the piece, is a reference to the keyboard compositions of the English virginalists of the late sixteenth/early seventeenth centuries. On the one hand, "Lambert's Fireside" and "Goff's Fireside," named after Herbert Lambert and Thomas Goff, the two clavichord makers, are almost completely idiomatic of virginal music. On the other, the meandering tonality of "Rubbra's Soliloquy" and "E.B.'s Fanfarando" marks them as twentieth century compositions.
First recordings of two powerful works from the pen of one of our major composers, John McCabe, who is celebrating his sixtieth birthday this year. Of Time and the River (the title is taken from Thomas Wolfe's novel) is actually the published title of McCabe's Fourth Symphony, written in 1993/4 to a commission by the BBC. The Flute Concerto was written for James Galway in 1989/90 and he gave the first performance of it in 1990 with Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra who commissioned the work. Here it is played by the outstanding young flautist Emily Beynon in her first recording for Hyperion.