PARRY Piano Trio No 2; Piano Quartet (Leonore Piano Trio)
If this magnificent new instalment in the Leonore Trio’s survey of Parry’s chamber music on Hyperion proves one thing, it’s that we shouldn’t take him for granted. You don’t need a musicology PhD to guess that Schumann and Brahms will be important presences in Parry’s musical universe, though you might be a bit surprised to learn from Jeremy Dibble’s excellent booklet notes that Stanford (of all people) considered the Second Piano Trio ‘unintelligible’.
Of course, it isn’t. But what is unexpected is the sheer strength of musical personality that emerges from behind the obvious influences. I can’t think of anything quite like the lowering, overcast chromatic introduction that raises the curtain on the Piano Quartet, the quiet, questioning mood that slowly creeps into the slow movement of the Second Trio or the same work’s utterly delightful folk-flavoured Scherzo. Imagine Schumann in contrapuntal mode suddenly throwing caution to the winds and dancing a Highland fling.
It all leaps off the page in these red blooded and surely unsurpassable performances. The Leonores sound like they’ve lived with and loved these pieces for years: they surf the ebb and flow of Parry’s surging, often tempestuous lyricism with the same grace and style that they bring to the radiant sunset codas that close the first movements of each work. The galloping verve of a movement like the finale of the Piano Quartet can withdraw in an instant into a world of hushed intimacy; the group’s unaffected portamentos and Benjamin Nabarro’s warm, throaty violin tone suit the music beautifully. Even had there been a century-long tradition of recording Parry’s chamber music, I suspect this would still shoot straight to the top of the heap. Lovers of English music needn’t hesitate.