Emily Howard: Magnetite

Emily Howard: Magnetite

NMC Recordings
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Release Date: 23 September 2016

Magnetite is the first portrait album from composer Emily Howard. These vivid recordings illustrate the paradoxes omnipresent in Howard's music, with Helen Wallace writing in the liner notes that, "listening to these dynamic, exquisitely rendered scores we’re struck by their expressive power. Yet one is conscious, too, in their structural rigour, of the potency of mathematical concepts in the composer’s process; of her wrestling with opposing forces." The release was met with critical acclaim, with BBC Radio 3's Record Review calling it "a confident, major orchestral debut ... Scientific ideas brilliantly articulated."

Magnetite (2007) was Howard’s first major orchestral commission for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which has gone on to be performed regularly across the world. Magnetite is the oldest known magnetic substance and Howard describes this piece as "a journey deep inside one of these crystals" - a concept which The Times called "a clever idea, boldly realised".

Continuing a similar theme, Solar (2010) creates a musical image of our sun, using luminous, resonant sonorities and bursts of energy. The Financial Times praised the work for its ability "to suggest galactic power on a compact scale". 

Mesmerism (2011) for piano and chamber orchestra is one in a series of works inspired by Ada Lovelace, the pioneering mathematician and daughter of Byron. This piece won a British Composer Award in 2012 with the BASCA judges commenting that "the harmonic language of the music is lucid and beautiful, sustaining at the heart of the piece a great sense of stillness. This is an original voice".

Works for smaller forces on this album include Afference (2014) for string quartet; Leviathan (2014-15) for baritone saxophone and percussion and Threnos (2015), a three-part song for bass and soprano voices (including the bass voice in falsetto).

This album is part of our Debut Discs series.

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Gourlay conductor
Lucy Goddard mezzo-soprano
Simon Whiteley bass
Alexandra Dariescu piano
Elias String Quartet



'Magnetite [is a] sumptuous, powerful piece ... an engaging introduction to Howard's music, expertly played' The Observer

'A confident, major orchestral debut ... Scientific ideas brilliantly articulated in a score whose shimmering colours and essentially tonal trajectory are easily assimilated' BBC Radio 3 Record Review

'it is pure magic ... [it] takes the fascination with scientific theory and fashions an emotional journey' Planet Hugill

'Released by the excellent NMC and featuring consistently high quality performances, this fine disc offers a welcome introduction to a striking musical voice' BBC Music Magazine

'Emily Howard's music is dark and spacious, robust and sleek. She's the kind of composer who can summon big atmospheres in compact terms' Gramophone (Kate Molleson)

'[Magnetite] is a structural tour de force' AllMusic

'one of the most outstanding composers of her generation.' BBC Music Magazine (Nicola Lefanu)



With thanks to the trusts, foundations and individuals who have invested in NMC’s Debut Discs series:

The Astor Foundation
The Boltini Trust
The John S Cohen Trust
The Fenton Arts Trust
Nicholas and Judith Goodison
Mercers' Charitable Foundation
The Stanley Picker Charitable Trust
The Radcliffe Trust
The Richard Thomas Foundation
RVW Trust
Jennifer Roslyn Wingate

and to the individuals who donated through The Big Give Christmas Challenge December 2011.


Solar, Magnetite and Mesmerism were recorded on 8-9 September 2015 at Liverpool Friary, Church of St Mary of the Angels, Liverpool. Afference was recorded on 1 May 2015 at Menuhin Hall, Yehudi, Menuhin School, Cobham, Surrey. Threnos was recorded on 1 December 2015 at All Saints East Finchley, London.
DAVID LEFEBER Recording Producer & Engineer

Leviathan was recorded on 22 November 2015 at Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.
STEPHEN GUY Recording Producer & Engineer

Catalogue number: NMC D219
Release Date: 23 September 2016