Thursday 27 January 2022

Uncovering rarities by Parry and Elgar

Hertfordshire Chorus - Elgar: The Black Knight, Parry: De Profundis

During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Sir Hubert Parry wrote a series of large scale choral works, the Biblical oratorios Judith (1888) and Job (1892), the cantata Ode on St Cecilia's Day (1889) and the psalm setting De Profundis (1891). These have, largely, disappeared from view and few have received any or many 20th and 21st century performances. Conductor William Vann revived Judith in 2020, performing the work at the Royal Festival Hall and recording it for Chandos [see my review]. The choir on this recording was Crouch End Festival Chorus, and it was whilst the choir's conductor David Temple was preparing them for the Judith performances and recording that he came across Parry's De Profundis.

Now there is a chance to hear this as David Temple conducts Parry's De Profundis with the Hertfordshire Chorus and London Orchestra da Camera in a concert at St Alban's Cathedral on 26 February 2022. De Profundis is written for 12-part choir, orchestra and soprano soloist (Sarah Fox in this case). The work was written for the Three Choirs Festival in 1891; RVW (who studied with Parry) thought very highly of De Profundis and tried to get further performances, to no avail. And as far as the choir can ascertain, the work has not been performed since 1921 when it was given by the Bach Choir! 

To accompany De Profundis the choir will also be performing Elgar's The Black Knight. Written eight years before The Dream of Gerontius, Elgar described the work as a symphony for chorus and orchestra and the form is somewhat experimental; it was his first work for choir and orchestra. It would be the first of two choral works by Elgar based on Longfellow (King Olaf came second in 1896), and these would be followed by The Light of Life (1896) and Caractacus (1898), all modestly successful, and Elgar's real success only came with the premiere of Enigma Variations in 1899.

Full details from the Hertfordshire Chorus website.

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