Friday, November 18, 2011

Parry - Piano Concerto in F-sharp Major

Hubert Parry (1848 -1918) was an English composer, teacher and music historian.  He came from an upper middle class family and as such went to school at Eton.  Although he excelled in music while at Eton (as well as sports) his father demanded that he study for a different career, so when he went to Oxford he didn't study music but law and history.

He worked as an insurance underwriter at Lloyd's of London from 1870 to 1877, all the while continuing his studies in music. He tried to obtain lessons from Brahms, but he was not available. Parry ended up taking lessons from Edward Dannreuther , a pianist and writer. Parry's compositions began to be known by the public and he was also hired on as a music scholar in 1875 by George Grove as an assistant editor for the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians to which he contributed 123 articles.   He was appointed professor of composition and musical history at  the Royal College of Music in 1883. He became director of the  College in 1900 and worked in that capacity until his death.

The Piano Concerto in F-sharp Major was one of Parry's first major works. He began the work in 1878 and completed it in 1879.  It was premiered in 1880 with his own teacher Dannreuther as soloist.  It got rave reviews but some considered it avante garde.  Parry went on to write much vocal music, five symphonies and other pieces, plus books on music and music history.

Parry thought that German music and traditions to be the standard, so with the oncoming World War he felt confident that the English and Germans would not fight each other. Of course he was sadly wrong, and had to watch his musical world become yet another victim of the war. Parry had suffered from heart disease for many years and when he contracted the Spanish flu during the 1918 pandemic, it took his life.

Parry wrote only one piano concerto. It is an interesting piece, not least of all to think that it was at one time considered avante garde.  It is very well written, with a piano part that calls for the skill of a virtuoso.  It is one of the many neglected pieces in the repertoire that could use an occasional hearing.

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