This 1991 Nimbus disc is one of many that were originally released
in the late 1980s or 1990s and which have been re-issued or
at least re-distributed without obvious announcement from the
label. The booklet has certainly changed, and William Boughton's
biography has been updated to 2004.
This particluar CD hardly started an avalanche of recordings
of Parry's radiant First Symphony. Within a year Chandos had
released a version by the London Philharmonic under Matthias
Bamert (CHAN 9062) - in fact, Chandos appear to have completed
their actual recording before Nimbus. The LPO under Bamert has
to date provided the only complete recording of all five Parry
symphonies (CHAN 9120 - pricey, but valuable, and considerably
cheaper as a download). Perhaps surprisingly, Naxos have never
progressed beyond a starter volume in 1996, when Andrew Penny
and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra recorded the Second
Sadly, no other recordings appear to have been made since, leaving
for the First Symphony a simple choice between Boughton and
Bamert. This recording is certainly a safe bet. The orchestral
playing is not faultless, but it is decent enough, and Boughton
gives one of his best early performances. Sound quality on early
Nimbus discs was not always of the most satisfactory quality,
but on this one it is fairly good - just a little muddy in the
Though not by any means among the greatest ever written, Parry's
First Symphony was something of a pioneer in British music:
if it is reminiscent of Elgar, it is as well to remember that
this work preceded Elgar's First by a quarter of a century.
Incredibly, Boughton's was not only the first recording of Parry's
Symphony, but also the first performance of it since Parry himself
heard it for the last time in 1883! What a sad indictment of
20th century musical life in the UK, to allow such glorious
music to lie neglected for so long, when almost every duff ditty
ever scribbled, every bum note ever crooned is indiscriminately
consumed by a pop-obsessed culture.
The Symphony is redolent at times of Mendelssohn, Brahms and
especially Schumann, all of whom Parry held in the highest esteem.
Parry dedicated it to his wife, so it is hardly surprising that
it is a colourful, vital, optimistic work, though not without
episodes of drama and poignancy.
Sometimes Parry was happy to adopt the Victorian practice of
giving works portentous, some might say pretentious, titles
for effect. From Death to Life is not only subtitled
Mors et Vitae, but its two sections have their own prophetic
headings: Via Mortis and Via Vitae. No doubt,
obviously, what Parry had in mind when writing this piece, and
given the social and personal context - the start of the First
World War and Parry's own old age, it is little wonder that
turned out to be a dark, operatic work of considerable intensity.
It is far from depressing, however: the second part is marked
nobilmente and decidedly Elgarian in spirit. A fine companion
piece to the Symphony, the two works providing the listener
with a representative sample of early and late Parry.
The booklet notes are supplied by prolific Parry/Stanford scholar
and biographer Jeremy Dibble, and are well written and informative.
also review by Rob Barnett
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk