Hubert 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.
I’ve been impressed by Jonathan Dove’s art songs so I was glad to be able to take a look at one of his operas. It’s The Adventures of Pinocchio and it was recorded in a production by Opera North at Sadlers Wells in 2008. I feel a bit ambivalent about it. I really like the music but I’m not hugely engaged by the libretto. I think this is largely because of the subject matter so it may come off better for someone else.
The one thing Daniel Taylor did not explain in his introduction to The Coronation of King George II, presented by Toronto Summer Music Festival, last night was how on earth he, and whatever friends and substances were involved, came up with the concept. It’s not immediately apparent that interweaving some of the music from the 1727 coronation service with snippets from the liturgy while throwing in some earlier music that might have been used in earlier coronations and, to cap it all, Tardising in some Parry and Tavener makes any sense at all but in a weird way it did. There was even a real priest brought in to play the Archbishop of Canterbury (looking disturbingly like the Bishop of Bath and Wells) and an actor playing the king. Oddly it made for an hour or so of rather good music mixed with just enough levity to offset the mostly extremely lugubrious text of the liturgy.
Hubert Parry’s 1888 work Judith got its North American premiere yesterday in a performance by Pax Christi Chorale at Koerner Hall. It’s a typical English high Victorian oratorio, commissioned by the
Leeds Choral Society Birmingham Festival (Wikipedia strikes again). It’s got some very grand choruses and some tuneful solos (one was later used for the hymn tune Repton setting the words “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”). If one like’s that sort of thing, and Peter Simple’s Alderman Footbotham of the Bradford Tramways and Fine Arts Committee would certainly have approved, it’s very enjoyable. And if that’s not enough, there’s human sacrifice, seduction and murder to keep one’s interest.