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this terrific disc

John Buckley
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RVW Orchestral



Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848-1918)
Symphony No. 5 in B minor (1914) [23:07]
Blest Pair of Sirens (1887) [10:55]
Symphonic Variations (1897) [13:18]
Elegy for Brahms (1897) [10:23]
London Philharmonic Choir/Frederic Jackson
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Adrian Boult
rec. No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, 4, 9, 19 October, 20 December 1978; 21-23 December 1966 (Blest). ADD
EMI CLASSICS 65107 [58:09]

There are some mysteries about the decisions of record companies. Why this was issued by EMI in early batches from their British Composers series and then allowed to slip into deletion hell we shall never know. Much the same question arises with the same company and series in relation to Arthur Bliss's Morning Heroes recorded by Charles Groves with the RLPO and RLP Chorus (CDM 7 63906 2). Perhaps Arkiv will secure the license to issue the Bliss as well?
In any event the present disc, largely recorded at one of Boult's final sessions now appears courtesy of Arkiv's on-demand service. It's handsomely done by Arkiv and the booklet in quality is now indistinguishable from the original disc except for the Arkiv logo on the back.
As for the music, Parry is much more than a museum piece or a pawn on the chess board of music history. The language moves between Brahms and Schumann, leaning more toward Brahms. You can hear that from the very start of the Fifth Symphony in which Boult, even at his then advanced age, catches all the conflagration that blazes through Parry's equally fiery First Symphony. The Fifth Symphony is however more concise than his earliest symphony and runs to four tersely-titled movements: Stress, Love, Play, Now. These titles are in themselves fascinating - noting the change from states of existence to a temporal statement (Now) in which the emotional state can only be extracted from listening to the music. This is warmly Brahmsian in the manner of the Second and Fourth symphonies with a Viennese Schubertian lilt in the Play movement. The finale is the longest at 7:40. The start of the Play movement is redolent of Elgar's Enigma. This movement has a touch of Nobilmente as well as of early Straussian exuberance.
Twenty-five years earlier came Parry's Blest Pair of Sirens set to Milton's poem At a Solemn Music. It here receives a golden sunburst of a performance and recording notable for the tonal weight of the choir even if sung unanimity is not always perfect. This recording was made in 1966.
The Symphonic Variations are sturdy but take a while in this performance to catch the heavenly fire to defeat the academic surface of most sets of variations. Parry's magnificent way with the striding horns can be heard at 2:12. How good it would be to hear these Variations alongside the similarly grand Elegiac Variations by Thomas Dunhill. Michael Pope in his fine liner-note tells us that Parry regarded Brahms as the greatest artist of the time. Parry's overture-length Elegy for Brahms in fact had to wait until 1918 for its premiere. At that stage it had been revised by Stanford who conducted the work at the Parry Memorial Concert at the RCM on 8 November 1918. Boult makes this Elegy shine in a golden aureole which celebrates Brahms rather than laments him.
Boult conducting Parry was clearly something special and Parry's music drew grand things from Boult even into old age. A golden anthology well worth the outlay alongside Nimbus's recording of the First Symphony (Boughton a magnificently alive version), Boult's Lyrita collection and Bamert's Chandos Parry cycle.
Rob Barnett


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