Sir Hubert Parry: Jerusalem; Under the Greenwood Tree

21 09 2009

It’s a two-for-one day!

by Scott St. George (used under Creative Commons)

picture by Scott St. George (used under Creative Commons)

And did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s mountains green?

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (referred to as C.H.H. Parry or Sir Hubert Parry) does not have the same name recognition, perhaps, as some of his contemporaries or successors (Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Finzi, or Quilter, to name a few) despite his distinguished positions at the Royal College of Music and Oxford University. Regardless, his noble, stately setting of William Blake’s poem, Jerusalem,  has become something of an unofficial English national anthem.

Dame Felicity Lott was one of the first lyric sopranos I ever heard who grasped me with not just her beautiful voice, but also with herability to really communicate a text; I still remember her vividly as Pamina in the video of Mozart’s The Magic Flute and as Anne Truelove in the recording of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. So when I came across her 2004 CD of English Song, entitled “My Own Country,” I knew I had to feature it, especially when combined with a discovery of a vast public domain treasure trove of songs by Parry.

Under the Greenwood Tree is another great example of Parry’s ability to create a sound-world in music that echoes the mood of the text. The music is playful throughout, but the enemies of “winter and rough weather” sound stark, though not particularly threatening.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
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Hugo Wolf: Auf ein altes Bild (In an old painting)

22 03 2009

und dort, im Walde, wonnesam...

"und dort, im Walde, wonnesam..."

This simple song remains one of my favorites. So simple, so lovely. It moves slowly, at a strolling pace, as if one is walking through an art gallery observing a piece of art. When the viewer realizes that this lovely scene will soon lead to Christ’s crucifixion on the cross, the pain of the realization stings the soul.

The work may have been inspired by Durer’s Madonna and Child, but then again, many artists painted this same scene. In my mind’s eye, I see a conglomerate of works that I came to love growing up at Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum, namely di Credi’s work and the Gossaert’s “Mother and Child with Saint Agnes.”