Archive for November 6, 2007

Parry: Nonet

November 6, 2007


 On Sunday afternoon (somewhat the worse for wear after driving 400+ miles to Bradford and back for a quintet gig and a curry – thanks, Jo T – but that’s another story) I joined some friends for a play-through of the Nonet in B flat by Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918).  Not sure whose idea this was, or who had the music;  it’s scored for a slightly unusual wind combination of flute, oboe, cor anglais, two clarinets, two bassoons and two horns.  (Why?)

First impression was of an effective, well-written, energetic and colourful work, often in Parry’s vein of heroic maestoso familiar from Jerusalem, I Was Glad and Blest Pair of Sirens, but not descending into bombast, over-long in places but interestingly put together, with cyclic use of themes (the Scherzo has the same tune as the first movement, the last movement recycles themes from all the previous ones).  He’d been listening to Wagner, too – one ‘Tarnhelm’ chord shift straight out of Rheingold…

I didn’t know the piece, and didn’t have a chance to look at the blurb in the score, so can’t tell you much about it.  The most obvious influence seemed to be Richard Strauss – the most directly comparable work (in the same key) being Strauss’s early Suite in B flat, Op. 4;   but – and this is the most surprising fact about the Parry – this can’t have been an influence, as the Parry dates from 1877, seven years before the Strauss.  (Could the 20-year-old Strauss have heard the Parry?  No.  Although Parry was 29 when he wrote it, he was pretty well still unknown at the time, certainly outside England — and the Nonet was never performed in his lifetime.)

There’s a recording of the piece on Hyperion.  If I can track it down perhaps it will tell me more.  An interesting find.

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