The "Six Pieces for Organ" by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) were not published until 1953, but were all composed during the years of 1940-1945. Dedicated to Herbert Sumsion, the organist (at the time) of Gloucester Cathedral, they hold a significant spot in the repertorie. Howells considered the third in the group, "Master Tallis's Testament" (1940) to be one of his most "significant" works.
It captures the essence of the ‘Second English Renaissance’ of Howells, Vaughan Williams, and Holst et al with its seamless blending of sixteenth century modality and twentieth century sensuality. The work is essentially a set of gradual variations on the opening theme, each subsequent variation growing in intensity, complexity and volume. The tone of the piece at the beginning is that of a restrained pastoralism, with the modal G minor gently washing against the numerous ‘Tudor’ chromatic inflections.
The work is certainly influenced by Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis," and carries the great man's (Tallis) music forward into a new dimension.
I find that the most important thing with this piece is to "keep the flow" going. It shouldn't necessarily be "rigid," but it must be formal.
It is fitting that the work be played on the Salisbury Willis, as Howells was briefly Assistant Organist there (under Walter Alcock), and always had a special feeling for the place.