The earliest works are attractive character pieces in a Romantic idiom which show just how different Howells’s writing was before he began to study with Charles Stanford (from 1912). The Phantasy and Harlequin Dreaming demonstrate not only an emerging French influence, but also what a remarkable compositional technique the young Howells had during a period when he was considered the leading British composer of the younger generation.
French music continued to be a strong influence on Howells throughout his time as a student (1912–17). In Phantasy (1917 – RCM MS 4714) we hear possibly the most successful Ravel-pastiche by an English composer, with Jeux d’eau echoing throughout Howells’s playful scherzo. Nevertheless, the level of compositional craft marked Howells’s own original voice out, with several commentators pointing to him as ‘the hope’ for the next generation of British music.
- Jonathan Clinch, Royal Academy of Music, 2020