Hubert Parry (1848-1918)

Episodes

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01Parry Is Spurred On By Wesley2012021320130610

Donald Macleod on how Samuel Wesley encouraged Parry to pursue a career in music.

He was considered the nation's unofficial composer laureate with hits such as Jerusalem, and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to music, including the revitalisation of British musical life. Donald Macleod focuses upon the life and music of Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918).

Parry's own wish to study music, and later also to marry the love of his life, were both frowned upon by his elders, but he eventually achieved both, proving himself to be a man of determination and ability. He would, however, go on to be a victim of his own success, with the nation's lust for oratorios, an area of music in which Parry would be pigeonholed. His works were successful in the UK, but very few ever achieved much further afield, and although he was responsible for heralding a British musical renaissance, the nation would largely forget Parry towards the end of his life, in favour of younger talent. Parry did go on to have an incredible impact upon new composers in his role as Director of the Royal College of Music, and despite ill health throughout most of his life, he was never one to turn a student away or not offer help and advice.

Hubert Parry was born into an affluent family, with certain expectations being placed upon him with regard to his future career and religious beliefs. Parry would go on to fight against these confines, and whilst studying at Eton, he would also pursue his musical ambitions on the side, including composing anthems such as Crossing the Bar. The organ would also prove to be an area of interest to Parry throughout his career, with works such as his Fantasia and Fugue in G. In fact we see Parry in the organ loft with the senior composer Samuel Sebastian Wesley, who encourages the young lad to pursue a career in music.

When Parry went to Oxford, he soon acquired his music degree, and was active in devising musical events in his lodgings, including the performance of chamber music. Parry would go on to compose many chamber works, especially in his early career, including a Nonet. Also whilst still at Oxford, Parry searched out music tutors such as Pierson, who instructed Parry further in the art of instrumental writing. This tuition would eventually feed into larger works, such as his first Symphony.

02Parry Goes Into Insurance2012021420130611

Donald Macleod focuses on the implications of Parry's decision to work in insurance.

He was considered the nation's unofficial composer laureate with hits such as Jerusalem, and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to music including the revitalisation of British musical life - this week Donald Macleod focuses upon the life and music of Sir Hubert Parry.

Whilst still at Oxford, Parry was very active in musical activities such as the Exeter College Musical Society. This gave him the opportunity to hear many of his own works, such as songs and partsongs. Parry would continue to compose music for the voice throughout his career, including songs such as More fond than Cushat Dove, and the partsong What voice of gladness.

When Parry left Oxford, he went into insurance much to the pleasure of his father. This also provided Parry with a level of respectability, which his future mother-in-law very much approved of, eventually allowing him to marry her daughter Maude. Throughout his early career with Lloyds, Parry continued his musical activities, always searching for a piano and a composition teacher to support him. He continued to compose around this time, including works for the piano such as his Charakterbilder.

Parry's search for musical support brought him to the pianist and teacher Dannreuther, who frequently held his own chamber music gatherings. This allowed Parry the opportunity to compose and hear his works, such as his first Piano Trio. Dannreuther and Parry also both shared a love for the music of Wagner, which can be heard in Parry's orchestral work Concertstuck, composed after he'd visited Beyreuth.

03Parry And The Birth Of Modern English Music2012021520130612

Donald Macleod focuses on the effect of Parry's writing Prometheus Unbound.

He was considered the nation's unofficial composer laureate with hits such as Jerusalem, and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to music including the revitalisation of British musical life - this week Donald Macleod focuses upon the life and music of Sir Hubert Parry.

Parry in his early thirties was enjoying the support and friendship of the pianist Edward Dannreuther. This friendship would allow Parry the chance to compose and hear many chamber works at his mentor's chamber evenings, including his Violin Sonata in D major, composed at the request of Dannreuther.

Parry's status as a composer would soon be on the up, with a commission from the Gloucestershire Festival. His response was the choral work Prometheus Unbound, which some say heralded the birth of modern English music. This popularity in writing choral music would develop further, allowing Parry the opportunity to write one of best known scores, Blest Pair of Sirens.

Parry was now appointed a teacher at the newly established Royal College of Music, and colleagues would soon be criticising him for his interest in Wagner. Like Wagner, Parry was attracted to the art from of opera. Yet unlike Wagner, Parry's only attempt in the form, Guenever, was a total failure. During this time though Parry did compose one of his most popular orchestral works, his third Symphony, nicknamed The English.

04Parry Becomes Director Of The Royal College Of Music2012021620130613

Donald Macleod on the effect of Parry's becoming director of the Royal College of Music.

He was considered the nation's unofficial composer laureate with hits such as Jerusalem, and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to music including the revitalisation of British musical life - this week Donald Macleod focuses upon the life and music of Sir Hubert Parry.

Parry had hit the big time! His Blest Pair of Sirens had proved to be popular, and a number of other choral commissions followed, including the chance to write an oratorio, Judith. Although rarely heard in its entirety today, many will recognise one of the tunes as the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Other choral works followed, such as Job, although Parry detested the nation's lust for oratorios, and soon found himself pigeonholed in the category of an oratorio composer.

Other commissions came Parry's way though, such as composing incidental music for the stage. One such play was The Frogs, which caused wild uproar. Then followed another stage work, Hypatia, although the composing of this was at a time when Parry's health was not good. Parry had always suffered from poor health, and now his doctors were advising him regular trips abroad for peace and quiet, and time away from work. This was hard to achieve, as Parry had just been appointed Director of the Royal College of Music.

Along with this appointment at the RCM, and with his commissions increasing, Parry's status was now at an all time high. For the anniversary celebrations of the composer Purcell, Parry would compose one of his best choral works, Invocation to Music. Also at this time he'd write his only orchestral work to become popular abroad, the Symphonic Variations.

05 LASTParry Is Nearly Sunk By A Warship20120217

Donald Macleod focuses on Parry's final years.

He was considered the nation's unofficial composer laureate with hits such as Jerusalem, and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to music including the revitalisation of British musical life - this week Donald Macleod focuses upon the life and music of Sir Hubert Parry.

During the last twenty years of Parry's life, although he was an important part of the British musical scene, knighted by Queen Victoria, and Director of the Royal College of Music, his own music would soon be forgotten and overshadowed by the works of his friend Elgar. Parry would still compose two scores, which would prove to be his most popular and enduring. Jerusalem, which is considered to be Britain's second national anthem, was composed for a war organisation during WWI. The second, his anthem I was Glad, was composed for the coronation of Edward VII, and has since been used at many royal occasions.

Parry's health was deteriorating greatly, and he had to start giving up various teaching and committee obligations. Throughout his career he had always continued to compose the odd work for organ, or set of songs based on English lyrics. There was an Indian summer for Parry when his works were briefly back in vogue, which saw the composition of his fifth symphony. However, with the outbreak of war, his health soon started to go downhill, as he was required to work more and more on his own estate in the chopping down of trees. This was a period when Parry would hear of the death of many of his students at the front, and suffer himself from depression. Parry died a month before the armistice, and at his funeral was performed one of his last composed works, his a cappella Songs of Farewell.

05 LASTParry Is Nearly Sunk By A Warship2012021720130614

Donald Macleod focuses on Parry's final years.

He was considered the nation's unofficial composer laureate with hits such as Jerusalem, and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to music including the revitalisation of British musical life - this week Donald Macleod focuses upon the life and music of Sir Hubert Parry.

During the last twenty years of Parry's life, although he was an important part of the British musical scene, knighted by Queen Victoria, and Director of the Royal College of Music, his own music would soon be forgotten and overshadowed by the works of his friend Elgar. Parry would still compose two scores, which would prove to be his most popular and enduring. Jerusalem, which is considered to be Britain's second national anthem, was composed for a war organisation during WWI. The second, his anthem I was Glad, was composed for the coronation of Edward VII, and has since been used at many royal occasions.

Parry's health was deteriorating greatly, and he had to start giving up various teaching and committee obligations. Throughout his career he had always continued to compose the odd work for organ, or set of songs based on English lyrics. There was an Indian summer for Parry when his works were briefly back in vogue, which saw the composition of his fifth symphony. However, with the outbreak of war, his health soon started to go downhill, as he was required to work more and more on his own estate in the chopping down of trees. This was a period when Parry would hear of the death of many of his students at the front, and suffer himself from depression. Parry died a month before the armistice, and at his funeral was performed one of his last composed works, his a cappella Songs of Farewell.