Recordings Press

Frank Bridge: Isabella

“Howard Williams conducts a most impressively authoritative performance.”
Frank Bridge: The Christmas Rose

“If Bridge himself had doubts about its quality, the doubts were likely concerned with a change of musical style he was experiencing at the time. No trace of an uncertain hand, however, remains in the music, which flows with utter conviction: unfailingly skilled, unfailingly expressive. Or so it seems in the present performance, an exceedingly good one. The two children sound entirely credible, as they enact what is of course the major part of the story; the three shepherds (one of them the father) are equally right, equally unassuming. Both groups are ready to allow an element of adult passion to enter their voices when the music demands it, without overdoing an adult vibrato; anything less than this would perhaps seem unnatural, The orchestra savours every felicity (and there are many) in the scoring, and the conductor welds the splendid vocal and instrumental contributions into an entirely convincing flow.
The overall effect is helped along by a recording of good warmth of tone, if perhaps not the last degree of presence. With luck many Christmases will be illuminated this year by the gift of this most welcome disc.”
British Piano Concertos (Austin, Finzi, Ferguson, Rawsthorne)

“From archaeological treasures to the shiny and new, with the CBSO’s most recent concerto release, which comes in the form of four 20th-century British piano concertos, recorded with presence and immediacy at the CBSO Centre for the enterprising SOMM label.
Conductor Howard Williams achieves marvels here in guiding these expert players through these lesser-known works, and pianist Mark Bebbington deserves some kind of award for training these pieces into his fingers and delivering them with such natural sympathy and understanding.”
Edward Cowie: Concerto for Orchestra

“... it receives a magnificent performance under Howard Williams, and a first-rate recording, the frequent large climaxes encompassed without distortion and the sound in general warm and clear.”
Elgar & Kodály: The Music Makers

“Set down live at a concert at St. John’s Smith Square last May, these two works receive committed, intimate readings from the compact forces of the Oxford Orchestra da Camera and its choir, under the sympathetic, sensitive conducting of Howard Williams. If effects are not as grand as those achieved by greater numbers on other recordings, this lean, forward approach (with some superb diction) adds an element of immediacy to works where the text is such a vital component.
... the listener returns again and again to these endearing performances of such moving music.”

“I have nothing but praise for this performance, distributing this equally between choir, orchestra, soloist, and conductor. The singing is wonderful. Right from the start we know we are in for a treat: witness the final sibilant ‘s’ of ‘We are the music makers’. Unanimity of this order comes from both intelligent choral brains and secure direction. Diction is superb, phrasing and breath control equally so. There is unanimity of attack and complete integration of vocal blend. The playing is inspired: rich strings, fat, opulent brass, marvellous woodwind and wonderful timpani, snare drum and cymbals. The soloist, Christina Wilson, has a voice to drool over: powerful, majestic. Mezzo she may be but rich contralto she sounds: a perfect ‘line’, impeccable diction, the voice always beautifully ‘placed’. But what leaps out of this performance is the wonderful direction of Howard Williams. This piece is a nightmare drive of sudden gearshifts, U-turns of tempo, mood swings all too obviously reflecting Elgar’s character. Williams may be driving a Rolls-Royce, but his foot on the accelerator and brake is light as a feather and solid as a rock. It is a superb piece of performance management.
This is a CD to treasure. I shall listen to it often—for Kodály’s relatively innocent yet virile choral piece, his superb orchestral work, and a superlative performance of the Elgar. SOMM are to be congratulated on their enterprise.”
Philip Glass: Another Look at Harmony, Pt 4

“The results are …. a triumph. The choir and organist have taken a piece which owes its existence to the idea of structured, almost computer-controlled repetition and given it a whole new life in a live acoustic. What we gain is a feeling of live acoustic, of a real living performance. The choir give the piece vitality and vividness…
The results give a striking new sound to Glass’s familiar world.”

“Glass’s gradually expanding and contracting sequences eventually generate musical peaks and troughs of quite monumental proportions. Such moments are heard especially during the closing sections of this recording, made by the impressive Choir of the 21st Century under Howard Williams.”
Rossini & Donizetti: arias

“Howard Williams is the ideal partner, breathing life into every bar of the orchestration, especially notable in the Rossini pieces.”
Rózsa: Cello Concerto; Schurmann: The Gardens of Exile

“Conductor Howard Williams is totally caught up in the spirit of the two works, and he elicits fine ensemble playing from the Pécs Hungarian Symphony Orchestra.”
Mátyás Seiber a cappella

“The singing in all these choral songs is beyond reproach. The music is in the best and sweetest tradition of English choral singing as is the performance, which places emphasis not only on contour and dynamic but also on enunciation. A Seiber collection to carry these songs into our affections and into the singing repertoire of choirs across the world.”
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