New Release – Dani Howard’s Orchestral Works


Composer Dani Howard’s first album release celebrates her technicolour orchestration in a range of orchestral works including the whimsical Trombone Concerto that lit up Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall mid-pandemic.

Composer Dani Howard consistently delivers vibrant and captivating compositions. Whether scoring for a grand orchestral ensemble or chamber opera, Howard’s work is an increasingly trusted offer on any programme.

Her compositions have a youthful zing about them, immersing new listeners in something new and fresh, giving permission for a spot of imagination and wonder. Her musical langauge has the potential to captivate even the most cynical of new listeners, drawing them in with a pastoral feel and, in the case of the Trombone Concerto which features on her first album release, a brass band, youth orchestra feel too.

The Trombone Concerto with its flirty slides, chuntering woodwind, joyous brass fanfares and soaring strings, is the kind of thing I hear that I want to play or conduct. Its not music that’s done to people; its an invitation to revel in the joy of orchestration.

Opening the album is the sparkling concert overture Argentum, commissioned by Classic FM to celebrate the station’s 25th anniversary, reminiscent of Edward Gregson and maybe even a sniff of George Fenton and John Adams.

Ellipsis composed for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a more pared-down orchestration in comparison to what’s gone before, yet it retains her trademark spirited anticipation. Listen out for the repeated rhythmic patterns punched out by wolfy brass and scrunchy strings. Subtle and relatively low-key Ellipsis still excites and delights.

The centre-piece of the album is perhaps Coalesence, originally inspired by the sighting of a large tree in central London that had grown around its metal railing originally installed to protect it, the work later morphed into a tribute to bass player Flynn Adams whose words about what inspired him in music resonated with the composer – “This isn’t a math’s test, this is music and music is meant to be fun.” Coalesence has a pastoral heart around which fruity brass belch and stab. There are highly descriptive moments, and deeply personal cameos too.

Dani Howard’s Orchestral Works

Arches – Howard’s first work for orchestra written in 2016 – has a more tentative feel. The amalgamated orchestrations are quite so rich and complex, but the obsession with rhythmic patterns and scrunchy chords in the brass is clear to see.

Dani Howard’s personality shines through in the photograph for the album too. I wouldn’t normally comment on such things, but I think it’s relevant here. I see the picture and remember the interviews. The person I see is the person I remember speaking to. Her scores are her soundtrack. That’s quite some brand she’s crafted. She brings her authentic self to everything she does. That’s well-timed too.

In the sleeve notes, Dani Howard maintains her characteristic humility. I remember during a filming project back in 2017/18 seeing a picture of her composing at her desk, hung large in the reception area of PRS for Music. That early recognition from the industry speaks volumes. Classic FM saw it, so too the RPO and RLPO. In that way, this album celebrates an important voice in UK contemporary classical music. Someone to celebrate and someone to continue commissioning.

Dani Howard’s Orchestral Works is out on Friday 22 March. Listen via Presto, Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your music.

Dani Howard’s Thoroughly Good Podcast from June 2021