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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The father of the English musical rennaissance, 25 Oct. 2000
By 
Dr. R. G. Bullock "Gavin Bullock" (Winchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Parry: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
The late 19th century was a dire time for English music. Oratorios and lessons in fugues were the order of the day. Hubert Parry struggled mightily out of this quagmire and, with private lessons, gradually developed his own voice. Until recently, he has been described as worthy but dull. Someone once said he would set the whole bible to music if he could. This is so far of the mark. You had to set biblical texts if you were an English composer at that time. Parry was not a believer. He was a humanist and left of centre politically, yet the epitomy of an English gentleman. He felt for his fellow man. The English musical rennaissance is generally considered to have started with Parry and Stanford(though Stanford was a protestant Irishman). Parry composed five symphonies. The first I would note was the 3rd - the English. Parry's voice comes through strongly - a very individual lyricism. The fourth is an astounding work, very powerful. This has had only two or three performances until the present day - since 1889! It simply beggars belief that such a wonderful work should have been allowed to languish on the archive shelf. Do not Elgar's symphonies owe something to the broad sweep of this one? Also some of the nobilimente? At the end of the 1st movement there is a totally magical coda, which brings to mind the coda of Bax's 3rd symphony. He does not make the most of it but it shows Parry's sense of poetry and orchestral colour. There are fine things in the rest of the symphony too. There is a really fine and noble ending. In the 70s, Sir Adrian Boult recorded Parry's 5th symphony. It was his last session in the studio and this was his choice. It just goes to show how little influence really major figures in music have over recording policy. This was his retiring titbit. This is not that recording but hear this noble music. Parry is not the orchestrator that Elgar or Strauss was, but listen to the invention. The melodies are noble and subjugated to a master's control of tension and relaxation. Parry occasionally indulges in bombast but then just as suddenly subsides into beautiful, lightly scored passages. When the Boult recording was released, a prominent music critic suggested the whole score be restored to the dust of the Royal Academy of Music library. I think he is wrong. Parry is a really individual voice. Vaughan Williams thought so and so did Adrian Boult. What, with my opinion too, that is a majority. The LPO with Matthias Bamert give superlative performances and the Chandos (bless them) recording is marvellous.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'English Brahms'..., 25 Mar. 2002
This review is from: Parry: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
It was Parry's great misfortune to be composing at the same time as Elgar, both composers who (like many others in the late 19th-century) were profoundly influenced by the music of Brahms. The 5 symphonies are a delight, the last 3 undeserving of their present neglect. The 3rd (the 'English') is full of memorable tunes, the 5th a fine conclusion to Parry's symphonic utterances. The 4th is the marvel of the set: a deeply serious symphony, far and away his best. The first movement is powerful and weighty, with a dark coda, equal in emotional depth to any Elgar first movement. Parry was a keen sailor and the brisk scherzo feels like a yacht scudding along on a light breeze. The finale is powerful and ends in triumph. Full of memorable tunes, Parry's 4th is a neglected Romantic masterpiece. Why? Composed at the same time as Brahms' 4th and in the same key, it bears comparison with that work of the greater master. The LPO under Matthias Bamert give it their all.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully conceived and executed Romantic symphonies from Victorian Britain get a well-deserved revival, 25 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: Parry: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
This set of recordings, although relatively old now, was new to me - and it was quite an eye opener. It's certainly the music world's loss that this body of work was allowed to languish in obscurity for most of the last century and it's my own personal loss that I waited so long to explore Parry's symphonic legacy after the modest revival of his works began.

There is a real seriousness of utterance in Parry's symphonic writing: his works stand firmly in the German/Austrian orbit and speak a language essentially derived from Schumann and from Brahms - in terms of both form and content. In his own day Parry received some criticism for being 'too German' and that accusation - and the assumption that music ought to reflect a national character - has remained in the air since. I'm not sure why. After all, there was a musical lingua franca across Europe in the Classical era and something similar returned in the twentieth century - using nationalist elements as a yardstick to measure intrinsic musical quality is a hang-up from Romanticism that we should have moved on from by now, I feel. I also think we should also be circumspect about applying the epithet 'Victorian' to the music of this period without careful qualification of what we mean - after all, the adjective encompasses 60 plus years, which in musical terms covers the Early, High and Late Romantic periods. Certainly Victorian Studies have shown that the British nineteenth century world was far richer in its social and cultural diversity - not to mention far less sure of itself - than popular conceptions once held it to have been; and, as one earlier reviewer has already pointed out, Parry the atheist and free-thinker was a long way from the jingoistic and self-important Empire builder of cultural stereotyping.

In light of that, I think to ascribe his musical self-confidence purely - or even mostly - to some sort of late-Victorian zeitgeist is to do the composer a disservice. It is not the self-satisfaction of Empire that accounts for Parry's innate grasp of symphonic form or the assurance of his orchestration - something displayed even in his first symphony, which opens with a movement of well-judged and surging forward momentum reminiscent of Schumann. Stanford's symphonies were written during the same period and, attractive though they are, they don't share the same ease in handling sonata form structures. Nor is there anything among Stanford's symphonic oeuvre to stand beside the depth of the serious toned and eloquent fourth symphony in E minor by Parry - to my mind, this is one of the finest, if not the best even, British symphony prior to the arrival of Elgar's two masterpieces.

Another popular myth in musical histories is that the symphonies of Parry are somehow worthy-but-dull and purely academic exercises. This excellent set gives the lie to that clichéd proposition as well - even the most po-faced musicologist, I fancy, given the opportunity to hear a performance of a work like the second symphony (`The Cambridge') would find it hard to resist sitting back and being carried along by the Romantic ardour of its opening movement or andante; and they would have to be a stern critic indeed not to respond to the wit and verve that characterise the same symphony's animated scherzo.

There is a more modern cycle of these works on Naxos with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Andrew Penny; I haven't heard those recordings, though they appear to have received consistently good reviews on Amazon. Certainly, the performances recorded here by Mathias Bamert and the London Philharmonic leave nothing to be desired from the point of view of interpretation or sound quality; the repackaging at mid-price by Chandos makes them as viable an alternative as the Naxos issues price-wise too. Both cycles include the `Symphonic Variations in E minor', about which some writers have posited the suggestion that it may have been the original finale to the fourth symphony in E minor; it forms, therefore, an apt and valuable pendant to the symphonies themselves.

I can give this set of CDs nothing less than a very warm recommendation; as for the symphonies themselves, whether you end up purchasing either this issue or the individual discs from Naxos, you can be assured of an eloquent, often impassioned, and never less than satisfying musical journey that proves the injustice of Britain's label as "the land without music".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 or more unknown masterpieces., 20 July 2011
This review is from: Parry: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
The other reviewers are dead right. Stanford's symphonies (it is the inevitable comparison) are interesting to hear because they are by Stanford, but otherwise not something one should regret not seeing programmed in the concert hall. Parry's should be there all the time, no special allowances needing to be made. Very much in the Germanic tradition but original and very English, e.g. the lovely finale of no.2. No.5 begins with a kind of rocking motion up and down the scale which gathers energy and form and explodes into the main matter of the movement - very exciting and absolutely in the central symphonic tradition of growing complex music from very simple cells or ideas. No.4 has a sublime slow movement. Melodically interesting at all times, beautiful sound, great variety of metre and texture. No need to fear the shadow of Elgar, whose symphonies are really of a different kind. If only Parry had written 5 more symphonies. Very well played and recorded in this set. Try his violin sonatas, too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected Pleasure, 27 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Parry: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
Like many people I only knew some choral works of Parry though I had also enjoyed l learning one of the Schulbrede piano pieces many years ago. My interest was aroused by a BBC program "The Prince and the Composer". It was interedsting to listen to the symphonies in the order in which they were written. I willcertainly be listening to 4 and five again soon.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FOR ALL FANS OF BRITISH MUSIC., 21 July 2011
By 
Lost in France "Man In Black" (Chinatown, Weymouth, Dorset) - See all my reviews
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Hubert Parry is, as recently pointed out by Prince Charles in an excellent television programme, one of the great British composers right in the top rank wih Elgar, Vaughan-Williams and Walton. The Chandos set of his symphonies is a first-rate production all round. Highly recommended to all lovers of the quintessential sound of British classical music.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 27 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Parry: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
Why don't we promote our native composers more - there is some splendid music here.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 19 May 2015
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This review is from: Parry: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
Superb - just as expected. Amazon usual 5 * performance.
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