Friday, 4 September 2009

Hubert Parry: Choral Masterpieces from Manchester

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848-1918) Choral Masterpieces
I was glad when they said unto me- Coronation Anthem (1902) The Great Service: Magnificat (1881) The Great Service: Nunc Dimittis (1881) Songs of Farewell (1916) Hear my word, ye people* (1894) Judith - Oratorio: Long since in Egypt's plenteous land (1888) Jerusalem (1916) Mark Rowlinson, baritone; Jeffrey Makinson, organist, Manchester Cathedral Choir conducted by Christopher Stokes NAXOS 8.572104
I recently reviewed this new CD from Naxos of ‘famous’ choral music by one of Britain’s great composers – Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry.
I declared an interest: I noted that I always had a soft spot for Manchester Cathedral: my father's family were from Lancashire and looked towards this great City for work, worship and pleasure. It was there fore a great pleasure to listen to this music of one of my favourite composers.

I began by pointing out that “this CD is a perfect introduction to the choral music of Charles Hubert Hastings Parry. The repertoire covers his three most popular choral works alongside three great works that are typically known to Parry enthusiasts and those who inhabit the organ loft or choir stalls: the two groups are not mutually exclusive. I did a little survey: I asked five people (not British Music fans) to name a piece of music by Parry. Only one was able to suggest Jerusalem, but added that it might have been by Elgar ... The other four, unsurprisingly, had heard of this great hymn, but the composer remained a blank spot.

I felt that the work that most impressed me on this CD is Hear my words, ye people. It is a compendium of texts taken from the Old Testament books of Job, Isaiah and the Psalms. The work was originally composed for the 1894 Festival of the Salisbury Diocesan Choral Association. Unbelievably, it was conceived for 2000 singers with a semi-chorus of some 400! There was an organ accompaniment and brass band present at the first performance. The choral music part was kept relatively simple, as there was little time for rehearsal. The more complex music was given to the soprano and baritone soloists. In this recording the baritone part is sung by Mark Rowlinson: the other solo parts are taken by groups of choristers. The work concludes with the well-known hymn O Praise ye the Lord, which was a paraphrase of Psalm 150 by Sir Henry Baker. Something tells me that this 'pared-down' version is actually more effective and satisfying than the original. It is a truly gorgeous work that ought to have a secure place in the repertoire.
This present recording is a fine monument to a great musical and ecclesiastical tradition. It will be an essential addition to many collections

Please read my full review on MusicWeb International

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