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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


PARROTTICISMS: The Autobiography of Ian Parrott

British Music Society – Monograph No.5

ISBN 1 870534 24 X

AVAILABILITY

The price for the book is £8.99 and orders should be sent to the BMS Hon. Treasurer, Stephen Trowell. Payment in GB pounds only. Enquiries to Hon. Treasurer: Stephen Trowell, 7 Tudor Gardens, Upminster, Essex RM14 3DE ( 01708 224795

Throughout his long and busy life, Ian Parrott never was an Ivory Tower composer as this short autobiography makes it clear. His many concerns extended far beyond his lifelong musical focus, though these evidently have pride of place. As in any autobiography, the author comments on personal and professional events as well as on his likes and dislikes (musical and other).

He reminisces on his early and student years, first at the Royal College of Music where he was introduced to the music of Wagner and Bartók (the latter was to prove a lasting influence), and where he was living a double life, "writing one sort of music (free from consecutives and other scandalous progressions) for [my] teacher and another freely created sort for [myself] at night". Later in Oxford he befriended Humphrey Searle, among many others. One of Parrott’s early public performances was his first Scherzo in C completed in 1933 and premiered by the Isis Orchestra in 1936. It was in Oxford, too, that Parrott set up a Warlock concert.

He tells us of his likes (Elgar, Warlock and Bartók) and dislikes (Dyson’s Nebuchadnezzar), and of his wartime experience in Egypt. There he managed to compose a burlesque opera The Sergeant-Major’s Daughter, first performed in Heliopolis in 1943. The Egyptian experience was to have some further musical consequences with the composition of the symphonic prelude El Alamein (1944, an independent piece which later became his First Symphony’s third movement) and the symphonic impression Luxor. After his return to civilian life, music literally poured from his pen up to this day, in almost every genre.

After a three-year stay in Birmingham, Parrott and his family moved to Wales on his appointment as Gregynog Professor of Music in the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. A number of Welsh composers studied with him and these included the late William Mathias. He took an active part in Welsh musical life and became a household name in the principality. He composed an opera The Black Ram on a libretto by Sir H Idris Bell, of which there exists a Welsh version by Sir Thomas Parry-Williams. He still lives near Aberystwyth.

This short autobiography also includes a number of appendices dealing with personal and professional topics, and a complete list of compositions, many of which are still unpublished and too rarely heard, if at all. As a "true blue" Liègeois, I was delighted to read that his orchestral work De l’Estuaire à la Source, completed in 1939, was entered for a composition competition held in Liège and later used for his D.Mus. composition.

This is the sort of publication that helps shed light on the thoughts and events that continuously impact on one’s human and creative behaviour (from this point of view, it does not matter whether one is a creative artist or not) and on the whereabouts of some compositions. On a more personal note, I once wrote to Ian Parrott after hearing a taped performance of his powerful Second Symphony, which I find most impressive and at times quite dramatic. I had been impressed by some fearful trombone glissandi which I found quite menacing. Ian kindly told me that these trombone glissandi represented an aeroplane on his journey round the world. (So much for the perceptive music critic!)

Some time ago I reviewed a disc (TABERNACLE TABIP1 in British Music Society News 77 in March 1998 - REVIEW BELOW) that is still available at the time of writing. My concluding words then unfortunately still prove quite valid now. Though some of Parrott’s music has been recently available on disc, many important works such as his symphonies and concertos as well as his string quartets are still left unrecorded. His music definitely deserves to be much better known, and I hope that this short book might draw some favourable attention to his superbly crafted music and might prompt new recordings of his still underrated output.

Hubert Culot

 

IAN PARROTT Songs, Piano & Chamber Music. Alison Wells, sop; John Turner, recorder; Keith Swallow, piano. Tabernacle TABIP1

This release was produced on a subscription basis as an eightieth birthday tribute to Ian Parrott. It usefully offers works from various periods of Ian Parrott’s long composing life. Earlier works include some fine songs such as Absence (1943) written for soprano, recorder and piano, a couple of songs written in 1940 and 1945 and several piano works of which Theme and Six Variants of 1945 is by far the most impressive. Works of Parrott’s mid-period include songs written in 1972 (Flamingoes) and in 1977 (Two Thoughtful Songs) as well as a delightful piece for recorder and piano (Arabesque and Dance of 1972).

This tribute ends with pieces written quite recently and including the entertaining The Wrexham Pipers meet the Machynlleth Marchers of 1996 for recorder and piano, and a very fine short song-cycle Songs of Renewal (1995) again for soprano, recorder and piano. All these works amply testify of Ian Parrott’s wide-ranging outlook though they obviously come from the same pen and mind. Ian Parrott also proves himself not averse to some sort of mild musical humour evident from some of these pieces, not the least in his own Happiness (1995 - reciter and recorder) composed as a tribute to David Cox on his own eightieth birthday.

This fine release also include tributes to Ian Parrott by some of his friends: Anthony Gilbert’s amusing Mid-Wales Lightwhistle Automatic, Geoffrey Bush’s delightful Cradle Song for soprano, recorder and piano, and David Cox’s The Magic Island, a vocalise for soprano, recorder and piano inspired by Parrott’s song In Phaeacia (1945) heard earlier in this CD.

This is a fine tribute to a very distinguished composer whose music is all too rarely heard and that definitely deserves to be better known.

Hubert Culot

 

 



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