Saturday, March 12, 2016

No strange friend

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry lived between 1848 and 1918. He was English.
We will listen to the orchestral arrangement of his anthem 'I was glad'.
Anthems come under the label of patriotic music but this is an orchestral arrangement of the same. This work is very popular and was played during the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William.

The anthem has been sung at the entrance of the monarch at every British coronation since that of King Charles I. Sir Parry's version was composed for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, and revised in 1911 for that of King George V. [Wikipedia]

Sir Parry was a teacher, historian and composer. And he was considered 'elitist' by his critics. We are going to listen to his symphony number 3 he composed in 1889.
Here are my views on the work - His English-ness is seen in the first movement.
And here I recommend that you play the video below:

I read 'openness' as a characteristic of English symphonies - probably inspired by their once flourishing countryside. The music is expansive, as is seen by the first movement, and often contained so you can trace out a mood.

It is Sir Parry who defined this English-ness, as I have read.

The second movement is a glorious continuation. Hence it's an example of Andante sostenuto:

  • Andante - moderately slow tempo
  • Sostenuto - played in a sustained manner

The tune breaks eventually, but the emotion is sustained - which is also a continuation!

Can this man be elitist, and does it matter really?

I adapt from Sir Arnold Bax's (poet, author, composer) criticism:
[Parry belonged to the club of]
"model husbands and fathers without a doubt, respected members of the most irreproachably Conservative clubs, and in Yeats's phrase had 'no strange friend'. Of this I am sure." [wikipedia]
Sir Bax was a respected artist and critic, and Yeats was immensely popular. Fans would not like to discard their words.

Sir Parry's daughter replied:
Far from its being an advantage to be the son of a Gloucestershire squire, my father's early life was a fight against prejudice. His father thought music unsuitable as a profession, and the critics of music in the mid-nineteenth century showed no mercy to anyone they considered privileged.
Another well-known composer Ralph Vaughan Williams praised Sir Parry's broad-mindedness, and stated that "his watchword was 'characteristic' – that was the thing which mattered."

That's precisely how I felt on listening to his symphony - characteristic of English-ness, of which he was the originator. His money, privilege and other criticisms come second, if they matter at all.

Sir Hubert Parry defined English-ness through his music, and inspired Ralph Williams, Edward Elgar and other English composers. His critics considered him elitist and having 'no strange friend'.
Does it matter?

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