Friday 17 August 2018

Hubert Parry - the complete string quartets

Hubert Parry - Complete Music for String Quartet - Archaeus Quartet
Hubert Parry Complete works for string quartet; Archaeus Quartet; MPR Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 14 August 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
A disc which allows us to see Parry moving from student works to something deeper and more serious

Hubert Parry's music is gradually (very gradually) coming out of hibernation. Whilst his symphonies have been available on disc for some time, it is only recently that a serious exploration of his songs has started (on SOMM), whilst this new disc from MPR features the Archaeus Quartet in Parry's complete music for string quartet.

The disc includes Parry's three completed quartets, along with a quartet movement left incomplete and here heard in an edition by Jeremy Dibble. The three quartets are all relatively early works, the first two date from Parry's student days in Oxford. There he participated in the musical soirees given by William Donkin, the Savilian Professor of Astronomy, and this seems to have spurred Parry on. His first quartet was finished in 1867, and his second in 1868. There was then a gap as, after he finished university he went to work at Lloyd's Register of Shipping (in order to convince his fiancee's family that he was able to support her). Parry would take lessons from Edward Dannreuther, only four years Parry's senior. Dannreuther also hosted chamber music concerts, with quite advanced repertoire, and it was for these that Parry composed his third string quartet in 1878 to 1880.
Parry's Quartet No. 1 in G minor, in three movements, is very much in the debt of Mendelssohn, clearly this latter composer's music was in favour at Donkin's soirees. So there is a Mendelssohnian classical elegance to the first movement, and the second movement starts delicately with the quartet performing with a fined down soun, though this movement does develop in passion. Finally there is a Allegro vivace, all lively charm and pointed rhythms.

Quartet No. 2 in C major moves into four movements, and here the influences are more various with Brahms and Dvorak entering the mix. This is a larger, more confident work. The opening movement, despite some lively rhythms, is surprisingly low key whilst the slow movement is intimate and thoughtful. The Mendelssohnian scherzo is all perky, catchy rhyhms, and the finale is outdoory in the manner of Dvorak.

I have to confess that with both these first two quartets, I found that the different movements rather outstayed their welcome, pleasant though they are.

It is only in the Quartet No. 3 in G major that we reach real maturity and depth. Again in three movements, it is a substantial work lasting over 30 minutes. The opening movement, clearly inspired by Dvorak and Brahms, is complex with a real sense of drama to it. The slow movement, 'Andante', despite being lyrical has some interesting undertones to it, and there are definitely dark clouds gathering around the Scherzo. The final movement again has an interesting complexity and drama to it.

The stand-alone Scherzo is a delicate affair (Jeremy Dibble in his booklet note describes it as 'will-o-the-wisp') with a more robust trio.

Following the third quartet, Parry would write further chamber music but would never again return to the string quartet form. Whilst, perhaps only Parry's third quartet is worthy of a place on the library shelves, the ability to hear all three is a valuable window onto his creative and learning processes and the Archaeus Quartet must be commended on their admirable recording project.

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918) - String Quartet No. 1 in G minor
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry - String Quartet No. 2 in C major
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry - String Quartet No. 3 in G major
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry - Scherzo in C
Archaeus Quartet (Ann Hooley, Rosemary Lock, Elizabeth Turnbull, Martin Bradshaw)
Recorded St Mary the Virgin, Salehurst, East Sussex, 14-16 November 2017
MPR MPR102 2CDs [44.15, 37.23]
Available from Amazon.
Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Out of the mouths of babes: Metta Theatre at Tête à Tête (★★★)  - Opera review
  • if there were water - Two different, yet challenging contemporary choral pieces in this striking disc from the American choir, The Crossing (★★★★) - CD review
  • Bayreuth’s new production of Lohengrin has taken the Green Hill by storm (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Exploring advanced techniques: flautist Sara Minelli's New Resonances (★★★)   - CD review
  • Leaving on a high: final revival of Jan Philipp Gloger's production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer at the Bayreuth Festival  (★★★★★)  - Opera review
  • Prom 42: the first Estonian orchestra at the Proms - Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra (★★★★½)  - concert review
  • A strong message on anti-semitism: Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festival  (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Edward Lambert's new Lorca-inspired chamber opera at Tête à Tête (★★½)  - Opera review
  • Still relevant & still controversial: Alex Mills' Dear Marie Stopes at the Wellcome Collection (★★★★½)  - Opera review
  • Politics, music and tonality: Keith Burstein and The Prometheus Revolution - interview
  • Small scale challenge: studio performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor from Fulham Opera (★★★½)  - opera review
  • Calen-O: songs from the North of Ireland from Carolyn Dobbin & Iain Burnside (★★★★½) - CD review
  • Prom 34: rare Barber & Copland in Juanjo Mena's leave-taking at the BBC Proms (★★★★) - concert review
  • Home

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