Hymnus Paradisi

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Hymnus Paradisi is a choral work by Herbert Howells for soprano and tenor soloists, mixed chorus, and orchestra. The work was inspired in part by the death from polio of his son Michael in 1935. Howells wrote the work from 1936 to 1938, drawing on material from the then-unpublished Requiem of 1932,[1] but then retained the music privately, without public performance. Howells maintained later in life that Ralph Vaughan Williams convinced him to allow the work to be performed publicly at the Three Choirs Festival. However, his former pupil and biographer Paul Spicer contends that Howells first showed the music to Herbert Sumsion, organist of Gloucester Cathedral, who in turn showed it to Gerald Finzi, and that only after these two expressed their enthusiasm did Howells show the music to Vaughan Williams.[2] The title 'Hymnus Paradisi' was suggested by Sumsion. The work received its successful premiere at the Festival in 1950.[3][4] The score was published in 1951.[5]

At one time the work was to include a setting of the "Hymnus circa exsequias defuncti" of Prudentius, later set in English as Take him, earth, for cherishing.[6]. The opening line, in Latin, instead appears as an epigraph to the published score.

The piece consists of six movements:

  1. Preludio (for orchestra)
  2. Requiem aeternam
  3. The Lord is my shepherd (a setting of Psalm 23)
  4. Sanctus. I will lift up mine eyes (which juxtaposes the Sanctus from the Ordinary of the Mass with Psalm 121)
  5. I heard a voice from heaven (from the Burial Service)
  6. Holy is the true light (from the Salisbury Diurnal, translation by G. H. Palmer)

Hugh Ottaway and Christopher Palmer have commented on the stylistic affinity of Hymnus Paradisi with the music of Frederick Delius.[7][8]



  1. ^ Palmer (1992). Herbert Howells: a centenary celebration. p. 98.Until the publication of Palmer's researches, the Requiem was believed to have been composed in 1936.
  2. ^ Spicer, Paul (1998). Herbert Howells. Bridgend: Seren. p. 145. ISBN 1-85411-233-3.
  3. ^ "Hymnus Paradisi". The Musical Times. Musical Times Publications Ltd. 91 (1291): 352–353. September 1950. doi:10.2307/935574. JSTOR 935574.
  4. ^ Wilfrid Mellers, "CD Reviews: Herbert Howells" (July 1995). The Musical Times, 136 (1829): pp. 384-385.
  5. ^ "I.K." (full name not given) (July 1951). "Reviews of Music: Hymnus Paradisi". Music & Letters. 32 (3): 288–289. JSTOR 729898.
  6. ^ Jacques, Reginald (July 1952). "Howells's Hymnus Paradisi". Music & Letters. 33 (2): 193–197. doi:10.1093/ml/XXXIII.3.193. JSTOR 729231.
  7. ^ Ottaway, Hugh (October 1967). "Herbert Howells and the English Revival". The Musical Times. Musical Times Publications Ltd. 108 (1496): 897–899. doi:10.2307/953063. JSTOR 953063.
  8. ^ Palmer, Christopher (October 1972). "Herbert Howells at 80: A Retrospect". The Musical Times. Musical Times Publications Ltd. 113 (1556): 967–970. doi:10.2307/955239. JSTOR 955239.
  9. ^ Hugh Ottaway, "Record Reviews: Hymnus Paradisi" (May 1971). The Musical Times, 112 (1539): pp. 451-452.
  10. ^ Guy Rickards, "Record Review" (December 1992). Tempo (New Ser.), 183: pp. 57-59.