Parry, Stanford, Gurney & Finzi

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Gurney & Finzi,Parry,Stanford
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Works by Parry, Stanford, Gurney & Finzi
PERFORMER: Christopher Maltman (baritone); BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67065
Solo songs with orchestral accompaniment were very popular in England at the turn of the century and this disc is a fine selection of some of the best of them. The thrusting virility of Parry’s ‘The North Wind’, which begins the programme, is a perfect realisation of WE Henley’s vitalism, while the Wagnerian gestures of ‘The Soldier’s Tent’ bear witness to his international perspective.

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In a splendid Stanford group, Parry’s Irish contemporary rises to the fervent patriotism of Felicia Hemans’s ‘Prince Madoc’s Farewell’, the lofty elegiac tone of Alfred Perceval Graves’s ‘Chieftain of Tyrconnell’, and the mystical adventurism of Whitmanpoetry in Two Songs of Faith. Christopher Maltman lightens his voice for the blithe pastoral mode of Ivor Gurney’s Elizabethan Songs and Finzi’s Let us Garlands Bring, but the latter, Shakespearian, collection also contains the pathos-laden ‘Come away, Death’ and the sombre meditation on the transience of life ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’, where both Maltman’s sonorous lower range and his powerfully rich upper are heard to advantage.

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Gurney’s subsequent experience of trenches and gassing resulted in the darker ‘In Flanders’ and ‘By a Bierside’, both orchestrated exquisitely by Herbert Howells. Ably supported by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish, Maltman captures the almost unbearably poignant feeling of these songs, written shortly before the wounding and shell-shock suffered at Passchendaele – and of course his subsequent decline into insanity.