PARRY: Piano Trio No. 2 in B minor; Piano Quartet in A-flat Major – Rachel Roberts, viola/ Leonore Piano Trio – Hyperion CDA68276, 65:31 (6/28/19) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ****:
Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918) generally receives credit for impressive choral works, as those he created for the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival. Moreover, Parry’s fruitful association with Edward Dannreuther’s private concerts, 1879-1886, allowed Parry the opportunity to create a powerful oeuvre of chamber works, which include the present Piano Trio No. 2 (1883) and the Piano Quartet (1879). While Parry certainly establishes his own voice in music, the most immediate obligations lie in Schumann and Brahms, especially the latter’s rich melodic gift coupled with his Classical sense of formal structure.
The B minor Piano Trio No. 2 (1883) opens with a noble, declamatory motto, Maestoso, that leads into a dark and passionate Allegro. The Leonore Trio – Benjamin Nabarro, violin; Gemma Rosefield, cello; and Tim Horton, piano – imbue the rhythmically surging movement (rec. 7-9 June 2018) with an urgency whose figures will link several of the successive movements. The interval of the falling seventh in transitions invests the themes with a restless poignancy, while the various mood swings, passionate and dreamy, gain a sense of romantic poetry. The fiery and expansive movement concludes in B Major, leaving the rich sonority of Nabarro’s violin inscribed in our imagination.
The lyrical slow movement, Lento, allows cellist Gemma Rosefield an extended moment in the sun, soon to be complemented by tender sentiments from the violin, while the keyboard proceeds in small, chromatic steps. The evolution becomes enraptured, eminently songful, and again most reminiscent of exalted periods in Brahms. The violin and cello indulge in some lovely interplay to conclude the movement, while the keyboard underlines the romance with some strategically placed bass tones. A buoyant dance, the Scherzo – Allegretto vivace – seems to unite elements of Dvorak with an Irish reel. The motto tune from the opening movement here works as the motive power, which quickly indulges in triple counterpoint a la Bach. The second subject of movement one supplies the tender melody for the trio section. The cello truly basks in the euphony of the moment, with deft figures and runs in the keyboard. The finale- Maestoso – Allegro con moto – employs the cyclical strategy we know from Beethoven, Schumann, and Franck, though the melodic content remains in the Brahms style. The movement proves to be a sonata-rondo in expansive form, dynamically embellished by Horton’s active piano. The violin part expounds in generous melody, albeit shy of the tonic B minor. The harmonies, in fact, become quite circuitous in their sweeping motions, and we must wait for the exalted coda to usher in B Major.
Parry began his audacious Piano Quartet in A-flat Major in 1878, his models derived from the piano quartets of Johannes Brahms. Parry completed the first draught by 1879 and had his rehearsals at Dannreuther’s studio. The two interior movements, the demonic Scherzo and the Andante, received immediate praise. Some critics found the passing dissonances rather full of “modernisms” that bore patience and repetition. After a gloomy Lento ma non troppo, the Allegro moves with fluent grandeur, with Rachel Roberts’ viola prominent. The epic sweep of the momentum clearly resembles Brahms, as does the clever counterpoint. Tim Horton’s keyboard has much to declaim as the movement moves to the quiet final page, each instrument’s coming in slowly, reminiscent of the last movement of the Brahms Piano Quintet.
The second movement Presto has been called “Mephistophelian,” and its Dionysiac fervor has all participants in a flurry. Bits of Schumann kernels flit by, with the strings’ urging a substantive melody that the keyboard intones parlando. But the restless irony of the moment prevails, despite a waltz middle section. The da capo proves even more inflamed than the outset, as if Parry were rejecting Victorian optimism for a mood in tune with 20th Century ethics. A long and lyrical melody marks the Andante, which Horton first introduces but the strings evolve. Horton’s piano provides a dramatic tension quite palpable, rife with pedal points and rhythmic impetus. The strings, moreover, develop the secondary theme to an intense climax.
Tim Oldham’s recording (7-9 June 2018) of the lyrical Andante in sonata-form captures the interior, frequently dissonant, dialogue with penetrating clarity. Two impassioned climaxes occur, to be offset by an ardent, extended, songful coda of romantic and meditative character. The final Allegro generates real bravura among the participants, eliciting a diatonic, contrapuntal mastery that Parry attributed to his love of the Prelude to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger. Still, the melodic gift in Parry strides forth luminously, once more in the Classic sonata-form. The recurrence of earlier motifs testifies to Parry’s cyclic penchant, which embraces the demonic impetus of the earlier Scherzo. The grand apotheosis of the coda has all four players on a virtuoso course, a rising pinnacle of exquisite, musical self-confidence.
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