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Commissioned in 1954 by The Bach Choir and its then Musical Director, Reginald Jacques, Herbert Howells’ Stabat Mater is at last to be recorded by the Choir for which it was written. This work has an interesting history: Jacques originally intended that the premiere would be given in 1956 to mark The Bach Choir’s 80th anniversary, but plans had to be put on hold when Howells (pictured) agreed to accept the commission only if he could complete the work to his own timetable. Jacques agreed, but could not have imagined that it would take Howells 10 years to produce it! By that time Jacques had retired as Musical Director due to ill-health, and the first performance was given by the Choir in November 1965 under the baton of David Willcocks. The critics were enthusiastic about both the work and the performance, with The Guardian newspaper praising the clarity of the choral singing, which had “vividly conveyed the meaning of the text”.
The Bach Choir of today is hard at work learning what is an extremely complex score, in preparation for the recording weekend at the Lighthouse, Poole, at the end of November. Also on the disc will be Howells’ Sine Nomine and Collegium Regale Te Deum (in its orchestral version), and this will be the fourth in the Choir’s series of English music recordings for Naxos, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Hill. The disc will be released in 2014.