Sunday, 24 May 2009

Gustav Holst: A Memory of Hubert Parry as a Lecturer.

I recently discovered this short tribute to Charles Hubert Hasting Parry. It was written by Gustav Holst –who at the time of writing was forty-four years old. He was then teaching at both Morley College and St Paul’s Girls School in Hammersmith. Furthermore, 1918 was the year when the Planets was given its first full public performance on 10th October 1918.
Interestingly, Groves suggests that the nineteen year old Holst began his education at the Royal College of Music in 1893 and not in 1892 as he himself suggests. His daughter, Imogen, in her biography of her father confirms him arriving at the RCM in May 1893, and shortly after meeting Charles Villiers Stanford. His friend at the College at this time was Fritz Hart, a largely forgotten song composer.
Parry himself would have been a mere 45 year old at that time: he would have looked nothing like the ‘avuncular’ photographs that are usually used to portray the composer. At time Parry was Professor of Musical History at the Royal College. Three years later he acceded to the post of director.


My first impression of Sir Hubert Parry on meeting him in 1892, was that at last I had met a great man who did not terrify me. It was my first term at the Royal College of Music, and I think all raw students, like myself, must have felt for his unfailing geniality and sympathy. Unfortunately, some had not the opportunity of realising what lay beneath. An insight into this was accorded me at the first of his lectures on musical history.
He began it in quite an ordinary way. He gave names and dates and events, and I settled down to listen to the sort of lecture I had heard before, only this time far better done.
Then he looked up form his notes, and said: “I suppose you all know what was going on in Europe at that time?” He then stood up and while walking about, he gave us, so it seemed to me, a Vision rather than a lecture – a Vision of people struggling to express themselves in war, in commerce, in art, in life: a Vision of the unity that lay under these various forms of human effort.: a Vision of the unity of a certain century with those that preceded and followed it: a Vision that I learnt from that moment to call History.

Gustav T. Holst The Music Student Volume XI No.3 November 1918 p86

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