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Sir Charles Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
With Harmony of Soul and Song
Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone), Paula Fan (piano)
rec. University of Arizona, USA, 2018
EM RECORDS EMRCD 053 [65:55]

Parry's popularity seems to be on the way up. Indeed I write this review whilst listening to the latest BBC Music Magazine disc (Vol. 26 No. 13), his Songs of Farewell and other choral music. Too long he has been regarded as just a teacher, a musical conservative and a kind of English Brahms. Finally he is getting the recognition he deserves as a beacon in the so called ‘land without music’.

I suppose the highlights of this disc are the Three Odes of Anacreon, the first of which was composed in 1868 but had to wait until 1880 to be published. By that time he wrote two other odes between 1869 and 1879; they are included in the collection. Here they receive their world premiere recording. Sadly, they also show the limitations of this performance, mainly the excessive use of vibrato by Jeremy Huw Williams. I usually do not mind, but here it is a little too much, so the singer sounds a little overstretched.

I only have one other disc of Parry’s songs, Stephen Varcoe singing the English Lyrics on Hyperion (CDA67044). I was looking forward to this new disc, even if most of the songs presented here also appear on the Hyperion disc. In these songs Williams fares slightly better. In some songs, such as the setting of Julian Russell Sturgis’ Sleep, he gives a very good performance indeed. Of the handful of songs that do not appear on Varcoe’s disc, there are some interesting settings. The performance of A Welsh Lullaby is quite fetching. It is a setting of John Ceiriog Hughes translated into English by E. O. Jones. The recital ends with a good performance of Dream pedlary, a setting of Beddoes, and another song not recorded by Varcoe. Here Williams proved to be in fine voice, colouring the vocal lines well.

So, something of a mixed bag. In some songs Williams’s vocal wobble is just too overpowering and unattractive, but in others he seems ideal. This is something some people may find off-putting. Paula Fan is constantly good throughout this disc. She shows the true art of the accompanist. The booklet notes – Paule Fan wrote those on the music – are very good, and the full song texts are included (both only in English). The recorded sound, produced by the singer, is also very good.

I have been watching the Somm record label’s releases of the English Lyrics. At the moment there are two volumes, and I hope to buy them in the near future. Until then the disc by Stephen Varcoe (who is also sometimes is a bit wobbly) and his excellent accompanist Clifford Benson will remain my go-to recording.

Stuart Sillitoe

Previous review: John France

Three Odes of Anacreon (world premiere recording)
Away, away you men of rules [3:23]
Fill me, boy, as deep a draught [4:26]
Golden hues of life are fled [5:10]
Good night [1:58]
Take, O take those lips away [1:36]
To Lucasta [1:33]
If thou would'st ease thine heart [2:40]
To Althea [2:05]
Why so pale and wan [0:57]
Weep you no more, sad fountains [2:57]
Proud Maisie [1:23]
Lay a garland on my hearse [2:16]
A Welsh lullaby [3:34]
When comes my Gwen [1:59]
And yet I love her till I die [2:53]
Love is a bable [1:32]
Under the greenwood tree [1:26]
On a time the amorous Silvy [1:42]
Ye little birds that sit and sing [2:29]
Sonnet CIX: O never say that I was false of heart [2:24]
Sleep [3:05]
Nightfall in winter 4:51]
Dirge in woods [3:04]
Grapes [0:55]
Armida’s garden [2:07]
Dream pedlary [2:07]

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