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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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phone: 02 9552 4020; fax: 02 9552 4395;
email: tpoffice@iinet.net.au;
website: www.tallpoppies.net

Katharine PARKER (1886-1971)
Down Longford Way

Piano solos: A Water Colour (1925); Nocturne (1925); Four Musical Sketches (One Summer Day; A Patchwork for Shadows; Red Admiral; Down Longford Way) (1928); Arc-en-Ciel: Valse (1936); Ballet; Brushing up the leaves
Songs: Six Songs (Yellow’s the robe for honour; I am disquieted; The night’s before us yet; The willows by the Eastern gate; I wait my Lord; You’ve two score, three score years before you yet) (1928); As a star (1913); Love ships (1914); The light of the lotus: love songs of Japan (My little Samisen; Lotus lanterns; The little dwarf tree) (1922); The road to love (1922); Désirée (1924); I don't care (1927); Come, my love
Jane Edwards (soprano); Ian Munro (piano)
rec. ABC Sydney, Studio 200, 7 July 2004 (songs); 13 June 2004 (piano solos). DDD
CD funded by the Tasmanian Bicentenary
TALL POPPIES TP 174 [54:30]


What a catholic world we live in! ‘Catholic’ in the sense conjured by that PC word ‘inclusive’. There is room for a very wide variety of styles of ‘serious’ music. Not so many years ago the chances of this type of repertoire being recorded were slim. Now the world of recorded music is much more diverse and accommodating.

Katharine Parker’s is a voice light and even sentimental from 1920s and 1930s Australia. She is obdurately indifferent to the second Viennese school. Her style is loosely linked with the lighter fare of Arthur Benjamin, Dulcie Holland, Miriam Hyde and Frank Hutchens; the repertoire satisfyingly explored by labels such as Tall Poppies, ABC and ArtWorks.

Katharine "Kitty" Parker was a product of rural Tasmania in the Longford area. She studied in Melbourne and later with Percy Grainger for whom she had a life-long admiration. She was accepted as his pupil in London. Her presence in the Grainger circle put her in contact with Goossens, Scott, Quilter and Balfour Gardiner. Grainger praised her piano solo Down Longford Way and encouraged her to orchestrate the piece. She stumbled over this task and Grainger then himself made an orchestration (let’s hear it please). Most of her music dates from before 1930; a watershed year for her. It was at this time that her marriage to Hubert Eisdell, the English lyric tenor, ended. After many years in England and touring through Europe, she returned to Australia in 1947. She continued to take pupils and corresponded with Grainger. After her death, her son Michael Eisdell deposited her compositions at the Grainger Museum in Melbourne and at the ABC music library in Sydney. In fact her compositions in total only amount to about one hour of music, most of it recorded on this disc; the equivalent of one slender volume.

A Water Colour is a lightly bejewelled sketch in the gentler pastoral manner of Ireland and Quilter. Nocturne reflects some of the Chopin heritage associated with the form however it is by no means a somnolent piece. The Four Musical Sketches are gentle genre pieces: a downy One Summer Day, a more passionate Patchwork of Shadows and an undulatingly rambling Red Admiral (no fast flight here). Finally comes her signature piece: Down Longford Way. No wonder Grainger loved the piece. At its heart is a melody heavy with sentiment with an affinity to Grainger’s own Colonial Song. Arc-en-Ciel has a distinct Gallic tinge - a grand salon waltz with storm in its contours and with Ravel in the wings. Brushing up the leaves doffs its hat to ragtime and could have been popular in the 1920s although it never made it with a publisher.

The Six Songs are settings of Chinese poetry which at their best recall Rachmaninov’s romances and Gurney’s songs - or at least the serenading ones (e.g. All Night Under the Moon). These are fragile and sentimental stems inhabiting a ‘willow pattern’ world without overdoing the Chinoiserie. They inhabit much the same world as the rather soft-focus Chinese settings by Granville Bantock and John Alden Carpenter. The Three Japanese Love-Songs are endearing sentimental little poems and the fine Little Dwarf Tree injects some liveliness into an otherwise winsome - or even twee - landscape. The waltz song I don’t care goes with a warm swing and would still work well in concert if suitably orchestrated. I rather think this is the sort of song that Lord Berners lampooned in his own songs collected on Symposium.

Ian Munro’s note is substantial and studded with factual detail rather than flowery generalisation. The note amounts to an extended encyclopaedia entry. The words for all the songs are given in the booklet.

Jane Edwards and Ian Munro treat these fragile blooms with respect. Neither are at all arch. Ms Edwards sings the songs with drama (Désirée) or tender sensitivity finding some iron in her voice at the more dramatic declamatory moments. She is nicely balanced in relation to the piano. Mr Munro handles the piano solos as if they were by Mayerl or Ireland.

Rob Barnett



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