Parry: Symphony No. 2 in F (Cambridge); Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy; Symphonic Variations in E

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COMPOSERS: Parry
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in F (Cambridge); Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy; Symphonic Variations in E
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Andrew Penny
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553469
The pioneering Chandos recordings of Parry’s symphonies by Matthias Bamert and the London Philharmonic confirmed that the concert world of Victorian England was not just a void waiting to be filled by Elgar. More than one expressive vein considered typically Elgarian was first tapped by Parry, and extended by him with professional flair. His symphonies established an independent vision, and cannot be dismissed as mere precursors of a greater composer.

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They thoroughly deserve alternative recordings, in fact, and Andrew Penny and the RSNO bring a freshness and vigour to their playing which make us admire Parry’s symphonic skill and warmth of poetry all the more. There is a bright edge to the orchestral textures, which contrast with Bamert’s smoother sonorities, and the two approaches complement each other admirably.

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The Cambridge Symphony, dating from 1882-3, is a touchingly exuberant and tuneful work, full of the joys of Parry’s new-found mastery, and this rhythmically taut and long-spanned performance serves it splendidly. Likewise the Symphonic Variations of 1897 which, unlike the symphony, has never been quite forgotten. Here is a masterpiece superbly performed. Anthony Payne