Classical music
Chamber & Recital

Stephen Cleobury: Howells & Vierne

Part of Classical Season 2018/19

Stephen Cleobury performs profoundly expressive music by Herbert Howells. The composer wrote his substantial Partita in 1971 for Edward Heath when he became prime minister, fulfilling a promise Howells had made 30 years earlier to write a work in the event that this came to pass.

Rheinberger’s tuneful and substantial four-movement Suite Op.149 is for organ and two string instruments.

It is relatively rare to hear the pipe organ in the context of chamber music, but this strongly melodic work blends the Romantic spirit with masterly counterpoint and dignified organ style.

The luscious Suite is paired with the delectable harmonies of Louis Vierne's Les Angelus.

This three-movement work is inspired by poems by Jehan le Povre Moyne. It is an impressionistic setting of the Christian devotional prayer commemorating the incarnation of Jesus, the son of God, in human form.

The prayer is typically accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell, which floats over sleepy European towns in the morning, at midday and in the evening.

Herbert Howells’ work, By the Waters of Babylon for baritone, violin & cello, Op.10, is a rarely heard composition which dates from what is arguably the composer’s best period. This elegant rhapsody, is unusually scored for organ, voice and two stringed instruments. It is more of a pastoral reflection on the text, well and truly situated in the Gloucestershire countryside as opposed to the Holy Land.

Howells makes use of folk-inflected melodies in this piece – but never folksong. The music is full of regret and perhaps a little fear: the composer was suffering a severe illness and was not sure that he had long to live.

Stephen Cleobury has, for 35 years, been associated with one of the world’s most famous choirs, that of King’s College, Cambridge. He has performed with many leading orchestras and artists of international repute, some of whom join him to perform the chamber works in this programme.

Presented in association with the Herbert Howells Society.


Stephen Cleobury organ
Ashley Riches baritone
David Adams violin
Kate Gould cello


Vierne: Les Angelus for voice & organ, Op.57
Rheinberger: Suite in C minor for violin, cello & organ, Op.149
Howells: By the waters of Babylon for baritone, violin, cello & organ, Op.10; Partita for organ

Dates & times

19 Sep 2018
Approximate run time: 115 mins
Run times may vary, find out more


Royal Festival Hall


Booking fee: £2.50 (Members £0.00)

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Related events
Royal Festival Hall at 6.15pm: pre-concert talk. Southbank Centre’s organ curator, William McVicker, interviews Stephen Cleobury about his work as an international conductor and Director of Music at King’s College Cambridge. Admission free.

Book 2 to 3 events in the International Organ Series in the same transaction and save 10% on tickets, or book 4 events and save 20%.

Discounted student tickets are available from Student Pulse in the month before this concert. Some of these seats are on the stage. Download the Student Pulse app or register online