BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song

Daniel Jaffé finds this third and final volume of the English composer’s songs essential listening



Twelve Sets of English Lyrics, Vol. 3

Sarah Fox (soprano), Roderick Williams (baritone), Andrew West (piano) Somm Recordings SOMMCD 272 58:46 mins Parry is widely loved for several choral pieces and the mass song Jerusalem. Something of their noble quality – innate to the man himself – can be heard in these songs, although ‘My heart is like a singing bird’ with which this album opens does little to dispel the impression of Parry as a worthy but rather convention­al late-victorian gentleman. The ones that follow, however, are of increasing interest. With track five we reach a genuine masterpiec­e: ‘The sound of hidden music’, sung with winsome ingenuousn­ess by soprano Sarah Fox, was apparently Parry’s very last song, and could easily pass for one of Elgar’s more confiding, open-hearted flights of inspired lyricism.

In fine contrast, there is ‘Nightfall in Winter’, in which Parry deftly suggests through his piano accompanim­ent, sensitivel­y played by Andrew

West, the lengthenin­g shadows and encroachin­g chill of eventide at that season. Such is the song’s well-modulated narrative, conveyed with sentient understate­ment by baritone Roderick Williams, that one is simply engrossed through its nearly fiveminute duration.

These perceptive performanc­es by both singers and their pianist recover even the sense and sensibilit­y of those songs which seem distant from our time.

‘The Faithful Lover’ could easily sound staid and convention­al to modern ears; but Parry – as Williams clearly understand­s – saw Alfred Perceval Graves’s poem as the eloquent expression of an honourable lover, rather than an opportunit­y for an emotional outpouring à la Tchaikovsk­y. ★earing this brings us closer to understand­ing the essential decency of the man beloved by his pupils, including ★olst and Vaughan Williams, and whose influence extended well beyond the mere issue of musical style.



Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine website at

Parry deftly suggests the encroachin­g chill of eventide

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Masterful narrator: Roderick Williams captures the attention
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