WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Symphonic Variations in E minor
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic/Matthias Bamert
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9120/22 DDD Reissue
During the course of 18 months, Chandos has radically altered our perception of the second English musical renaissance. Elgar and Delius are usually reckoned to have spearheaded the movement in their very different ways, while lip-service is paid to Stanford and Parry for preparing the ground. But the complete symphonies of Parry, first issued separately and now boxed together, tell a different story. Marvellously served by Bamert and the London Philharmonic, the canon reveals one of the most original achievements in modern English music: the establishment of a native tone of voice, no less, based on firm ties with the great Austro-German tradition. Both Elgar and Vaughan Williams owed Parry the greatest of debts, and now at last we can fully appreciate the fact.
The Fourth and Fifth Symphonies ought to be regularly before the public, and the other three will always be worth a hearing. Parry’s command of symphonic technique is present from the very first, often leading to a large-scale tying-up and unification of all material in the finale. His superb melodic gift provides centres of gravity throughout the series, and the unforced invention of catchy material infuses the scherzos. If not quite rivalling the achievement of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, these symphonies are still notable creations in their own right, dialectically impressive, tuneful and generous in feeling.
We owe much to Chandos for a courageous project, while Bamert, coming to the music from outside the English tradition, shows a quite remarkable empathy. Lucky the composer who finds such a masterly interpreter. Anthony Payne