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SM0179 Prelude for Harp

Prelude for Harp
Herbert Howells

Score coverHerbert Howells (1892-1983) wrote this piece in 1915 for Kate Wilson, a student at the Royal College of Music. Though originally entitled Prelude no.1, it remained his only work for solo harp. The scant pedal markings on the manuscript, and the presence of passages that might otherwise have been technically improved had composer and student worked together towards a recital, suggest that Kate never performed it. Unpublished, the piece formed part of her papers when she died, and her sister-in-law and niece subsequently donated it to the Royal College of Music library (RCM MS 4823). On the occasion of the College President’s visit in 1976, a Junior Department student, Rowena Wilkinson, played it to Howells, who could scarcely recollect writing it. It again lay unperformed until I gave its public premiere at London’s Purcell Room on 16 October 1998, and recorded it on ASV DCA 1036.

A rich and yearning piece, the Prelude has a darkness that might be explained by the prevailing climate of the First World War. It shares with the major works of Howells, such as the much-loved Hymnus Paradisi, the warm melodic style and atmospheric harmonies that make his music unmistakable. Its publication marks an important addition to the 20th-century harp repertoire by a major artist whose unashamedly romantic style makes him an ideal composer for the instrument.

For this edition of the work, which reproduces Howells’ s phrasing, I have removed unnecessary accidentals, and as the sense of the music requires it, added others where the composer has clearly omitted them. For consistency, articulation signs and dynamics have been applied to both staves. I have also added pedal markings, and in bars 36 and 37 suggested harmonics at the twelfth rather than the octave to avoid awkward replacing and subsequent dampening of chords. For the same reason, the Bb at bar 42 in the lower stave has been made a harmonic written one octave lower than the normal note as in Howells’s manuscript, and at bar 102, I have suggested a harmonic at the twelfth so that the melody note of the final phrase can sing for two complete bars.

Danielle Perrett, January 2000

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Library Information

Title: Prelude for harp
Composer: Herbert Howells
Edited: Danielle Perrett
Instrumentation: Solo Harp
Level: Advanced
Included: Score
Format: Stapled score
Size: A4+
Weight: 70gm
ISMN: M 2202 1985 6
Our Ref: SM0179
Publisher: Stainer & Bell [H422]
Edition/Year: 2000 (Composed 1915)
Origin: UK