Erich Gruenberg

Sir Hubert Parry: Music for Violin and Piano

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Given Sir Hubert Parry's place in the history of English music, one would expect his music to be performed and heard more often than it is, especially in Britain. Most people are familiar with his hymn Jerusalem ("And did those feet in ancient time"), but he was actually a very well-rounded composer, writing in all genres, with his orchestral works ranking in popularity just behind his choral music in his lifetime. Among his chamber works are the two violin sonatas and a set of 12 short pieces for violin and piano featured on this disc by Erich Gruenberg, accompanied by Roger Vignoles. These pieces show that Parry was an influential link between Germanic Romanticism and the English Pastoralists. The Sonata in D major is quite traditional in form, but it starts to move away from the heroics of Liszt and Brahms and use the longer, leaner, more lyrical lines in the violin that would turn up later in works like Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending. Instead of deep yearning, there is sincere benevolence, at least in Gruenberg's performance, and obvious sunshine, despite little spots of tension. The Fantasie Sonata, in one movement, is an earlier work than the Sonata in D and dates from a period when Parry was experimenting with forms and style, studying the music of Wagner as well as Liszt and Brahms. It is by no means a poorly constructed or immature work, but one where thematic development is effectively used to create depth of character and different moods. In contrast, the miniatures are unfussy character pieces, most of them sweet and lyrical, a natural disposition for music dedicated, as most of them are, to his wife and daughters. The sound of the recording is more distant than ideal for these works and almost too well balanced between the instruments; there are times when the violin could be more in front of the piano. Nevertheless, this is a welcome glimpse of the talent of Parry.

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