Saturday 27 October 2018

Introducing Parry's 'Judith'

Sir Hubert Parry
Sir Hubert Parry
Last month I talked to conductor William Vann, who is masterminding the first full performance of Sir Hubert Parry's oratorio Judith in London since the 19th century [see my interview], and on Thursday William presented an evening introducing the composer and his oratorio to friends and supporters. Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge and William Vann performed the aria Long since in Egypt's plenteous Land from Judith (Rudge will be singing the aria in the complete performance on 3 April 2019). The tune of the aria is familiar as in the 1920s it was re-used to become the hymn-tune used with the words 'Dear Lord and Father of all mankind'!

We also heard the first movement of Parry's Cello Sonata in A Major (which dates from 1880, eight years before Judith) performed by Julia Desbruslais (cello) and William Vann. Julia Desbruslais is the principal cellist and executive director of the London Mozart Players (and LMP will be performing in Judith on 3 April). And Kathyrn Rudge, Julia Desbruslais and William Vann  joined together to perform a work by Brahms, a composer much revered by Parry, Gestillte Sehnsucht Op.91, No.1 (originally written for mezzo-soprano, viola, piano). Kathryn Rudge and William Vann finished the evening with a group of English songs by younger contemporaries of Parry, including his students like Herbert Howells and Frank Bridge.

Prof. Jeremy Dibble [whom I recently interviewed about the revival of Stanford's Mass Via Victrix] provided a spoken introduction to Parry and his oratorio, making it clear that the oratorio was relatively ground breaking in Parry's output. It was his first essay in the genre, coming in 1888 at a time when he was still something of a challenging younger composer (he was 40) and coming after the great success of Blest Pair of Sirens.

Parry's Judith is at the Royal Festival Hall on 3 April 2019, William Vann conducts the Crouch End Festival Chorus and London Mozart Players, with soloists Eleanor Dennis (soprano), Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano), Toby Spence (tenor) and Henry Waddington (bass). Full details from the Southbank Centre website.

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