Parry English Lyrics CD review

PARRY: ENGLISH LYRICS Volumes II & III / Fox / Gilchrist / Williams / West (Somm Records SOMMCD 270 & 272) ****
Sir Hubert Parry has long suffered as the classical equivalent of a pop music one-hit wonder with Jerusalem overshadowing all his other works. His twelve sets of English Lyrics were written between 1874 and his death in 1918, with the two final sets being published posthumously. They influenced a younger generation of English song composers including Vaughan Williams. Parry wanted to escape the legacy of Victorian parlour songs and his settings – 23 on Volume II and 25 on Volume III – are more like lieder and the spruced-up folk-song form that Britten later pursued. Soprano Sarah Fox excels in the seven settings of gothic-tinged poems by Parry's friend Mary Coleridge including The Witch's Wood and Armida's Garden. James Gilchrist (tenor) and Roderick Williams, whose characterful baritone is persuasive even in the most mundane of songs, are excellent and well supported by Andrew West's piano. Recordings and booklet notes are first rate.
Norman Stinchcombe

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