Parry’s Judith

Most Anglicans know the hymn Dear Lord and Father of all mankind set to the tune Repton. This tune is taken from the great oratorio Judith first performed in 1888 by C.H.H. Parry. Here it is performed last year in Canada.

This performance is a concert recording of the North American premiere of Parry’s Judith, which has been rarely heard, by Pax Christi Chorale & Orchestra, conducted by Stephanie Martin. These talented musicians seem to specialise in performing large scale oratorios, particularly of the Romantic era. This oratorio is monumental and reflects the academic and personal style of Parry, who with Elgar and Stanford raised the profile and genius of English music.

It is truly a thrilling work by this most English of composers, who founded the Royal College of Music and was a keen sailor. Stephanie Martin tells us about the first performances:

Judith’s first performance in 1888 was very favourably received. Though Parry was self-critical and struggled with the score (he was over-extended with other work, and his father died while he was writing it) Judith was an overwhelming success. Parry had Europe’s top musicians backing him up. Hans Richter conducted the premiere at the Birmingham Festival, Stanford conducted in London, and Elgar played violin in the orchestra under Parry’s baton at the Three Choirs Festival.

Playing time is 2 hours and 19 minutes including the applause and introduction. It is worth your time!

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4 Responses to Parry’s Judith

  1. What a find! I’ve always had a soft spot for Judith and I knew of (and once owned a CD of) Honegger’s opera, but not Parry’s oratorio. I do know Prof. Martin pretty well, though: she sang in the choir of my first Anglican parish, where her late husband was music director. I had the privilege of hearing the premier of her motet “At thy great Name” at St Mary Mag in Toronto when she was directing the music there.

    • You can get freeware software on the internet that downloads files from Youtube and converts them into mp3 files. You can get a bluetooth speaker for your computer and that supersedes your stereo set. Alternatively, you can plug your computer into an amplifier and pair of speakers. You can play your CD’s on your computer and thus not break any copyright laws by copying them. I doubt this concert performance of Judith would be copyrighted.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thank you! I’ll hope to find the time soon to give it a proper hearing… I enjoyed Charpentier’s Judith and Vivaldi’s Juditha triumphans, but (absurdly) have never yet caught up with Mozart’s La Betulia Liberata – and had somehow never heard of Parry’s! (Wiki-swotting tells me Spem in alium is a text from Judith, which I did not know, either.)

    As it happens, I just started rehearsing Parry’s Quam dilecta setting today for a Market Garden-related commemorative Evensong in the Old Church in Oosterbeek.

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