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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Choral Parry, 8 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Parry: Orchestral/ Choral Works (Amanda Roocroft/ BBC National Orchestra of Wales/ Neeme Järvi) (Chandos: CHAN 10740) (Audio CD)
Here is a very welcome new release from Chandos: it has been many years since the company recorded their splendid discs of "The Lotos-Eaters" (1892), "Invocation to Music" (1895) and "The Soul's Ransom" (1906) Parry: Invocation To Music / The Soul's Ransom / The Lotos-Eaters / Blest Pair Of Sirens and no other company has stepped into the breach in the meantime, apart from Lyrita's reissued "Ode on the Nativity" (1912) The Sons of Light (Atherton, Lso) and Dutton's provision of "The Chivalry of the Sea" (1916) Elgar: The Spirit of England; Parry: Chivalry; Gurney: War Elegy. Hyperion's recording of the short oratorio "Job" (1892) Parry: Job has now been deleted but can still be obtained through their archive service.

The two most significant discoveries on this new disc are the 1911 Coronation Te Deum and the 1897 Magnificat: the former can now be heard as one of Parry's most impressive achievements, and the latter as a fascinating but unequal work. I have to admit that I didn't initially hold out much hope for the the Coronation Te Deum, but it is simply marvellous - imposing choral climaxes as only Parry can build, expertly varied choral textures (including a supremely beautiful unaccompanied "Holy, Holy, Holy") and a firm structural grasp which integrates the contrasting sections of the text into an ultimately satisfying whole - this is emphatically not just "occasional" music.

The Magnificat begins with some bustling on the strings which just seems to hang fire until the first choral entry: this is a problem which afflicts sections of several of Parry's larger scores, a business which is simply that and nothing more. Once things get going, however, there is much to admire: two contrasting soprano solos and a pastoral central choral movement of great beauty with a very Bachian solo violin obbligato. Although the final fugue is taken marginally too fast by Järvi, the effect is invigorating and the piece ends with the type of splendid peroration we expect from Parry in a Three Choirs commission. I have to own up to the fact that I didn't care for "The Glories of Our Blood and State" - the vital melody that would lift the piece out of the commonplace seems elusive, and the inclusion of "Jerusalem" in Parry's orchestration just proves how thrillingly Elgar re-imagined the piece. The suite from "The Birds" is a real delight (as so much of Parry's unrecorded incidental music will prove to be when it finds a committed advocate), but the unison choral song "England" (despite Boult's appreciation) is inconsequential and justifies the composer's own dismissal of his efforts.

The performances are very secure under the direction of Järvi, with the Welsh choral and orchestral forces rising fully to the occasion (as they so often did under the late Richard Hickox). Amanda Roocroft proves a sensitive soloist in the Magnificat, suggesting appropriate vulnerability in her first extended solo "Quia respexit humilitatem" and resolute vigour in her second "Fecit potentiam". A slightly mixed bag in terms of chosen repertoire, then, but well worth five stars for "The Birds", the Magnificat and (most of all) for the Coronation Te Deum. What we need now are first-class recordings of several other choral scores, including "Prometheus Unbound" (1880), "L'Allegro ed il Pensieroso" (1890), "Ode to Music" (1901), "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" (1905) and the larger-scale Te Deum (set in Latin, 1900, revised and expanded in English, 1913).
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Initial post: 3 Jan 2013 13:15:11 GMT
I agree whole-heartedly with this review. This CD is an important addition to the growing library of Parry recordings. For the interest of the reviewer he would like to know I think that I have resurrected L'Allegro ed Il Penserioso, making a new performing edition from the composer's manuscript in the RCM library - and have just performed it, with success, with The Chiswick Choir in London. Further information about this project can be sent if email is sent to dottedcrotchet@gmail.com. All lovers of Parry's music needs to know that this wonderful choral work is now available again for performance (and recording)!
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