PARRY Twelve Sets of English Lyrics, Vol 3
Gems abound on this third and final volume in what has been a most enterprising survey, and I’m happy to report that, as on previous instalments (12/15, 8/18), Sarah Fox and Roderick Williams are at the top of their game throughout. Sample, if you will, the former’s thrillingly commanding delivery of the dramatic ‘When the sun’s great orb’ from Set 12 and ecstatic ‘My heart is like a singing bird’ that opens Set 10 (conceived for the formidably accomplished husband-and-wife team of Agnes Nicholls and Hamilton Harty – and the irresistible curtain-raiser here); and what disarming wonder and expressive ardour Fox brings to ‘Thine eyes still shined for me’ and ‘When lovers meet again’ respectively (the first two songs from Set 4).
We are offered no fewer than nine settings of poems by Parry’s fellow student at Eton College and Oxford University, John Sturgis (1848-1904), perhaps the most powerful of which comprises ‘Through the ivory gate’ from Set 3, its dialogue between the dreaming narrator and ghost of a young friend brought to life with touching conviction by Roderick Williams and his excellent accompanist Andrew West (who contributes splendidly throughout, by the way). Likewise, ‘The Faithful Lover’, ‘She is my love beyond all thought’ (both from the posthumously published Set 11) and Set 6’s entrancing ‘A Lover’s Garland’ show Williams at his lustrous, articulate best. Don’t overlook, either, Set 8’s devastatingly poignant ‘Looking backward’ and evocative ‘Nightfall in Winter’, let alone the sublime ‘From a City Window’ from Set 10 (surely one of Parry’s most enduring creations).
So a joy from start to finish. Jeremy Dibble provides a customarily sage booklet-essay and the sound is commendably truthful to boot. Followers of this valuable series can acquire with confidence.