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Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
Overture to an Unwritten Tragedya (1893) [10:25]; An English Suite in Ga (c1921) [20:57]; The Birds (1883) Ė Bridal Marchb [5:21]; Lady Radnorís Suite in Fa (1894) [13:25]; Symphonic Variationsa (1897) [12:53];
aLondon Symphony Orchestra, bLondon Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult.
No rec. info. ADD
All works except for the Bridal March recorded in association with The RVW Trust.

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This disc is my introduction to Lyrita and a world of well performed and recorded English music which has often been unavailable. Parryís choral music is well known to me as it is regularly sung by choirs at Oxfordís Christ Church Cathedral but apart from very occasionally hearing his suites the orchestral music is unknown to me. If youíre in a similar state this wonderful CD is a great place to start under a former Christ Church student Sir Adrian Boult.

Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy has Elgarian similarities but there is an individual style. The performance is great with fine-sounding brass and, as in the famous Brahms symphonies, the LSO play their hearts out for the 82 year old Sir Adrian.

An English Suite at the beginning reminds me slightly of Beechamís Handel-inspired "Love in Bath" suite and is very melodic and enjoyable. The Saraband sees more emotion with a possible Grieg influence. I love the string sound evoked by Boult. Thereís an elegiac quality with Parry looking back perhaps to that happier and more carefree period before WWI. The frolic is based on a folkdance but still has masterly control and Iím reminded again of Elgar in the caprice with the full strings beautifully captured by the engineers. There are shades of "Introduction and Allegro" but feel this is not fair as Parry was simply writing at the same time and for a similar but not slavishly similar medium. Pastoral has a solo violin at the beginning and is evocative of haymaking and the English countryside. It is difficult to imagine this music being played better. Across its two minutes it is really moving and things get even more emotional in the Air. This lovely and charming piece has shades of Beechamís pieces but Boultís mastery in this idiom is even more striking when I turned to Nimbus disc NI 5366 with William Boughton. Sadly thereís no contest - very laboured playing and absolutely none of the magic which is abundant in the Lyrita CD.

Bridal March was instantly recognized by my daughter as written for a wedding. What a fine piece this is with real aplomb and yet an underlying tenderness; not bombastic and boastful. Thrilling playing; lucky the bride who has this music! There is a nod to Felix Mendelssohn but not overly so. Not wanting to harp on about it but what a great orchestral conductor was Sir Adrian as Toscanini acknowledged when he took over the baton of the BBCSO in the 1930s for his famous concerts and records.

Lady Radnorís Suite appeared on another Nimbus disc NI 5168 under William Boughton. As with the English Suite Boult is undoubtedly a better advocate but Boughtonís version is fine as far as it goes. To be frank I donít think you can rate this piece as more than very pleasant. It evokes English folk-music and is ideal as a backdrop to tidying up my CD and for driving. It is not as strong as the other works here.

Symphonic Variations is in a different class. I was most impressed by this work. I love Variations and apparently this was the first set by a British composer. There are echoes of Brahms who must have been hugely influential on other composers at that time - he died that year, 1897. Elgar and DvořŠk also come to mind. I would have guessed the latter in a Ďblindí hearing. What comes through the melodies is the splendid brass and woodwinds under a Brahms conductor and orchestra. It would have been an added bonus to have had each variation separately banded but this seems a mite nitpicking. Itís a splendid piece to end a fine disc.

Parryís orchestral music may not be startlingly original or challenging but it is very melodic. This disc makes for a good listen. I enjoyed playing each piece several times. Boult was a really fine conductor as my colleague Colin Clarke said in his review: Parry could have no finer advocate. Itís been great for me to have a chance to listen to new music and in such superb performances and recordings. If this is typical of Lyrita and I believe it is; what a fine label and Iím so pleased itís generally available again. So forget your 15th Beethoven and Brahms sets and give this splendid record a spin or two!

David R Dunsmore

see also review by Colin Clarke



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