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. At the heart of Harlequin Dreaming (1918 – RCM MS 4705a) is a fantastical waltz which develops through hypnotic repetition, only to vanish to nothing at the end. It is most likely that the puckish character that the composer had in mind was his close friend, Arthur Bliss.
- Jonathan Clinch, Royal Academy of Music, 2020