The life and works of Dorothy Howell

Byrne, Vincent James (2015). The life and works of Dorothy Howell. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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Since the 1950s, the music of Dorothy Gertrude Howell (1898 – 1982) has fallen into obscurity. Despite being called ‘the finest woman composer of her era’ and being popularly dubbed ‘the English Richard Strauss’, following the performance of her debut orchestral work \(Lamia\) (1919), Howell’s place in twentieth century British music has largely been forgotten.

\(Dorothy\) \(Howell\)\(:\) \(Her\) \(Life\) \(and\) \(Works\) is the largest study to date on the composer. Based on original research, undertaken at the private archives of the Dorothy Howell Trust, the thesis provides a detailed account of the composer’s life and catalogue of her works. The study is divided into three sections. The first section is biographical, providing a detailed and chronological account of the composer’s life. This section considers the reception of Howell’s orchestral works during the 1920s as well as her careers as a pianist and private teacher. The primary research develops our understanding of Howell’s trajectory as a composer and the circumstances that led to her decline as a composer during the 1940s. The second section is thematic, exploring Howell in the context of her Catholic Faith and commitment to writing Mass settings before and after the Second Vatican Council; an area of the composer’s life and music that has been neglected in studies hitherto. This is followed by a conclusion which considers Howell’s broader contribution to twentieth century music.

The final section is a catalogue of the composer’s known musical works. This catalogue provides extensive details on extant scores, publication details and technical details.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Music
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography
M Music and Books on Music > M Music


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