Cho­ral & Song

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

BBC Music Magazine - - Contents -


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 www.clas­si­cal-mu­

Parry deftly sug­gests the en­croach­ing chill of even­tide

Mas­ter­ful nar­ra­tor: Rod­er­ick Wil­liams cap­tures the at­ten­tion

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