Rumon Gamba / BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Parry: Symphony No. 4; Three Movements from Suite moderne; Proserpine

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The music of Hubert Parry is much more often played in Britain than elsewhere, but even so, the commercial success of an album of Parry works that had fallen into obscurity has been something of a surprise. The three pieces on this album have been languishing on dusty shelves and were prepared for performance anew by editor Jeremy Dibble. As it happens, there is music of general appeal here. The highlight is the graceful little (11-minute) ballet Proserpine, with the Ladies of the BBC National Chorus of Wales (that's what it says here) intoning text by Percy Bysshe Shelley over dreamy orchestral textures. The Three Movements from the Suite Moderne would indeed have been modern enough in 1886, when they were composed; they are reminiscent of Grieg's lighter orchestral or incidental pieces, and they were well received when they appeared in spite of Parry's having had to conduct the premiere with, variously, an umbrella and a walking stick. The Symphony No. 4, performed in its original version (the composer tinkered with it several times before giving up), exemplifies Parry's admiration for the Wagnerian tradition, and it is something of an attempt to force such sounds into a five-movement symphonic mold. It was championed by German conductor Hans Richter, but it's hard to hear a tune you'd remember the next day outside of perhaps the Brittania-rules finale. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Rumon Gamba summon considerable elegance for the lighter pieces, and the album will likely interest many lovers of British music.

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