Judith’s Saga

judith_sHubert Parry’s Judith has been making something of a comeback.  A new performing edition by Professor Stephanie Martin was performed at Koerner Hall by the Pax Christi Chorale in May 2015.  That seems to have sparked some interest since the piece was transplanted to the Royal Festival Hall in London in April 2019 where rather larger forces presented the piece to generally good reviews.  Subsequently the same forces mad a studio recording which has just been released as a hybrid SACD/CD release.  If you want to know more googling “Parry Judith” will bring up a small library of articles on the “Judith Project” and how this piece has been unfairly neglected.

There’s plenty of information about the work in my earlier review so I won’t repeat it.  hat I found listening to the CD was that it seemed more refined, less red blooded, than I had thought it first up.  Whether that’s the psychological difference of listening to a recording or a generally different take by conductor William Vann and his team I’m not sure.  In any event they perform very well and it’s most enjoyable.  Sarah Fox, as Judith, has quite a bright soprano but she can get quite dramatic.  This is especially true towards the end where a good deal of smiting is going on.  Kathryn Rudge as Manasseh’s queen and therefore mother of the children intended for immolation sounds more mature in an entirely pleasing way.  Toby Spence as Manasseh is elegance itself and Henry Waddington is appropriately solid in the bass-baritone roles.  The Crouch End Festival Chorus is admirably clear for a relatively large group and the children’s chorus is absolutely first rate.  The orchestra is the 48 strong London Mozart Players.  It all sounds fairly grand as one would expect from a late 19th century English oratorio but not on a Huddersfield Choral Society Scale.  I like that.  I’ll take clarity over volume any time.

The recording was made at Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London and it’s quite well balanced and transparent; appearing up to Chandos’ usual high standards.  However i should point out that I reviewed a pre-release electronic copy in 16 bit 44.1kHz sound.  The physical release is a hybrid SACD/CD with a multi-channel SACD layer and 24 bit 96kHz CD layer.  Some Chandos releases I’ve noticed the SACD has been audibly superior but not always.  Worst case it’s good recording and may be better than that.

It will be interesting to see whether the recording causes other groups to take the work up.  It’s worth hearing more than once for sure.  Thus far between Stephanie Martin, York University, assorted other parties and now Chandos Parry’s Judith seems to be making its return from the Valley of Lost Things.

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