Parry’s Violin Sonata of 1889 was composed specially for the celebrated
concerts that his composition and piano teacher, Dannreuther,
was giving at Orme Square in London. It is a very polished work,
with a lyrical and romantic first movement, a tender second movement,
and a lively and joyful finale, of which Eric Gruenberg and his
accompanist Roger Vignoles give an animated performance. Gruenberg
has super phrasing, and is technically brilliant, but in this
one piece in particular, I found him too reserved. Parry’s music
differs from, for example, Brahms, in its English yearning, nostalgia,
and wistfulness, but Gruenberg’s version lacks these qualities.
He therefore makes the piece sound more out of the mid-European
tradition, and is not true to the English roots of the work –
he doesn’t bring out of them all that there is to be revealed.
As a consequence, the piece lacks a vital quality – and this is
particularly true in the slow movement of the violin sonata, which
is given a rather impassive performance. We need more passion
and more longing!
The Twelve Short Pieces are delightful miniatures
that Parry composed in 1894 at Novello’s request, and were probably
designed for amateur violin players. They are full of character
– some playful and dancing, other evocative and romantic; and
some are very much Parry, whilst others are more reminiscent
of other composers, such as Dvořák. The Lullaby
in particular, is utterly charming, although the performance
is perhaps a little too prosaic. The Capriccio, however,
that concludes the disc, is most beautifully played.
Although they were published in three sets, they
are here divided into two by the intermission of the Fantasie
sonata. This piece shows the influence of Schumann and Liszt
in its cyclic construction – yet it is nonetheless a work of
great originality and character. Although Dannreuther again
gave its premiere at an Orme Square concert, Parry then withdrew
the piece. Gruenberg here digs a bit deeper than he did in the
Violin Sonata, and the piece receives a good, searching performance.
This disc presents some wonderful works - music
that should be better known. Although Gruenberg is not English
enough in his reading of these works, and therefore does not present
them in their full glory, he does play very well indeed, and Vignoles
is a sympathetic accompanist – although the piano does take a
secondary role in this music.