Percy Sherwood & Hubert Parry Piano Duos [Printed Music]

The two works by Sherwood presented on this disc were not published during the composer’s lifetime and are recorded here for the first time, using texts prepared and edited by Hiroaki Takenouchi from manuscripts held by the Bodleian Library. (Sonata for Two Pianos) (Suite for two Pianos).

The Suite presumably dates from 1901 or early 1902, shortly before its first known performance, which was given by the composer and Bertrand Roth on 20 April 1902 as part of Roth’s regular series of salon concerts at his home in Dresden. An inscription on the surviving manuscript names two dedicatees: Lucy Bambring and Edith Hempseed, a pianist active in the UK from around 1900 until the 1930s.

More ambitious than the Suite in terms of its scale and emotional range, the Sonata in C minor for two pianos was first performed by Sherwood and Hermann Scholtz under the auspices of the Dresden Tonkünstler-Verein on 27 April 1896. The work’s gestation is documented in the autograph manuscript held by the Bodleian Library, in which Sherwood noted the dates on which he completed the second, third and fourth movements over the course of a few weeks in April and May 1890.

First performed in 1877, the Duo appeared in print in the same year as part of Breitkopf und Härtel’s high profile ‘Klavier-Bibliothek’ (‘Pianist’s Library’) series – the first edition of Parry’s music to be published abroad. Perhaps recognising the new opportunities that international recognition might bring, Parry also relinquished his insurance job in 1877 in order to focus his efforts on developing a career as a composer, teacher and writer. Despite inhabiting a quite different sound-world to Parry’s later choral works – such as Blest Pair of Sirens, with which he is now indelibly associated – the Duo therefore emerges as a pivotal work in his early career and musical development. Dr Rupert Ridgewell

NMP1069 Percy Sherwood Sonata for Two Pianos

NMP1070 Percy Sherwood Suite for Two Pianos

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Percy Sherwood is coming in from the shadows. His Double Concerto Piano Concertos and Cello works have been recorded and now it’s the turn of Lyrita to promote and premiere on disc his two-piano works, the Suite and the Sonata. Both have been edited by Hiroaki Takenouchi (one of the pianists here, along with Simon Callaghan) from manuscripts held by the Bodleian Library and have recently been published, for the first time, by Nimbus Music Publishing.

The Suite for two pianos was first known to have been performed in 1902 in Dresden. It’s very clearly intended for domestic rather than public music-making and is cast in five movements. The rippling romance of the Praeludium, both lyrical and untroubled, is boosted by rather orchestrally-sized accompanying figures, before a charmingly old-fashioned Minuetto is introduced. Sherwood’s influences in this work are decidedly Classical, though Schubert is certainly the influence in the powerful central Romanze and Mendelssohn haunts the succeeding Scherzo.

The Sonata for two pianos is a slightly earlier work dating from 1896, though several movements had been more or less successfully completed in 1890. Its manuscript too is held by the Bodleian. The opening movement of this orthodox four-movement piece is in traditional sonata form and here the more contemporary influence of Brahms can be felt. It’s an altogether more serious and more commanding work than the easy-going Suite, as befits its sonata status. The Adagio is an immediately attractive movement; refined, elegant sonorities in the context of a flowing, songful musical direction that cumulatively generates a passionate surging animation. It eventually subsides into limpidity, almost to a mere whisper, before Sherwood reprises his superbly nourishing melody and recapitulates; in means rather like Schubert but to very different effect. The Scherzo is perhaps the most advanced movement, its determined and technically demanding writing coming to a droll full-stop, anticipating the finale’s declamatory recitative and ensuing and ultimately triumphant Lisztian cadences.

Whilst both of Sherwood’s pieces are new to disc, Parry’s Grosses Duo has been recorded before. It was written when he was around 27 and whilst it reveals the influence of Bach it’s not a neo-Baroque work, much less a pastiche, though Parry whips up the saturated organ sonorities with youthful relish at the end of the opening movement to suitably ripe effect. The central movement is very different, inhabiting the world of Romanticism and, like Sherwood’s Sonata, more reflective of the contemporary influence of Brahms, before returning in the finale to the Bachian ethos with a prelude and fugue. This was Parry’s only two-piano work.

This accomplished disc, graced by excellent performances from the Parnassius Piano Duo, brings two premiere recordings and a little-known Parry work to wide prominence. With fine notes and a recording to match, there’s nothing to dislike here and much to admire. MusicWeb-International

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