- Te Deum, for chorus & orchestra
The music of Hubert Parry has always been more popular in his native England than elsewhere, and it's easy after cursory listening to become lost in a snarl of chromaticism in the anthems and hymns heard here. This collection by the Choir of Westminster Abbey, recorded with by Hyperion with splendid transparency (a tough task with this composer) on the choir's home ground, makes an excellent place to start for those interested in understanding these British standards. One advantage is the enthusiastic set of notes by Jeremy Dibble, who provides one key when he writes, of Parry's setting of John Milton's "Blest Pair of Sirens," that the composer "achieved an entirely personal fusion of his enthusiasms for Wagner (evident in the paraphrase of "Die Meistersinger" at the opening) and Brahms with a distinctly English style characterized by the use of a higher diatonic dissonance..." The noble melodies that emerge at the end of several of these pieces are indeed Brahmsian, but what leads up to them is not. The arrangements for brass and organ, several of them by Grayston Ives, are fresh and true to the spirit of the music. Another piece of the puzzle is Bach, and the presence of Parry's "Fantasia and Fugue in G minor" for organ solo (track 7) attunes the ear to the contrapuntal nature of many other passages, strict even as Wagnerian chromaticism is pushed to the limit. Dibble offers many other useful details, including the fact that the composer of these pieces, many of which are almost stereotypical instances of British religious expression, was himself agnostic. Sample track 1, "I was glad," was an anthem for the coronation of King Edward II in 1902: it is arguably Parry's "greatest hit," and it is done to the hilt here with traditional shouted repetitions of the word "vivat" (may [Elizabeth live]) from the choristers. A fine sampling of the work of this important English composer.