Parry: Twelve Sets of English Lyrics, Vol. 2

Sarah Fox, James Gilchrist, Roderick Williams, Andrew West (Somm)

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Parry Twelve Sets of English Lyrics, Vol. 2
Sarah Fox (soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Andrew West (piano)
Somm SOMMCD270 61:05 mins

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The hundredth anniversary of Sir Hubert Parry’s death falls in October, and this second album surveying the 74 songs of his ‘English Lyrics’ is a timely tribute.  Those who know Parry mainly from the robustly self-assured ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘I Was Glad’ may find the more sophisticated nuances of these songs surprising. ‘O world! O life! O time!’, to a poem by Shelley, finds Parry probing the mysteries of mortality in tentative harmonic side-steps, with a brief swell of existential anxiety on the climactic ‘No more – Oh, never more!’. Soprano Sarah Fox judges the song’s temperature astutely, and is equally impressive in the death-draped ‘Gone were but the winter cold’. Baritone Roderick Williams is verbally deft and engaging in the tetchily humorous ‘Love is a bable’, and he too gets a deeper moment in ‘Dirge in Woods’, especially in the drained stoicism of the coda.

Tenor James Gilchrist shows a sharp interpretive sensitivity in ‘Bright Star!’, a setting of Keats’s final sonnet, although his fast vibrato can suggest febrility. Pianist Andrew West supports the singers empathetically, adding much to a recital which nudges a regard for Parry the songwriter even higher than did volume one of this excellent series.

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Terry Blain