Parry orchestrated only a small number of the many songs he composed for voice and piano. While studying under Pierson in Stuttgart during the summer of 1867 he scored his setting of Thomas Hood’s Autumn
, (written while he was still a schoolboy at Eton) as an exercise in instrumentation, but it was not until the 1890s that he showed an interest in orchestral arrangements. The first was an orchestration made in 1891 of Fill me boy, as deep a draught
(the second of the Three Odes of Anacreon
published in 1880) for Plunket Greene who sang it in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, on 10 March 1892, while Agnes Nicholls was the recipient of an arrangement of Walter Scott’s Where shall the lover rest
(from English Lyrics
Set I), scored in 1899 for a special concert of Parry’s music at Richmond’s Star and Garter Hotel on 27 April. That same year, Granville Bantock invited Parry to conduct a programme of his own works at The Tower, New Brighton, the venue of many pioneering and enterprising concerts that Bantock generously organized in support of English music. For the concert, held on 9 July, Parry interspersed the orchestral items with two vocal pieces: the Dream of King Saul
from his Birmingham oratorio of 1894, and a new song, The North Wind
for bass and orchestra which he had only finished scoring a week before. The singer on this occasion was Ivor Llewellyn Foster, a former RCM student who sang for twenty-seven consecutive seasons in Boosey’s London Ballad Concerts and would soon create the part of Don Pedro in Stanford’s opera Much ado about nothing
at Covent Garden in 1901. At least one further performance of the song took place at a concert on 18 February 1903 (given by the English Ladies Orchestral Society), but it fell into neglect thereafter. The unpublished score has been edited for this premiere recording by Jeremy Dibble.
Parry took the title of his song from the third line of W E Henley’s poem ‘Fresh from his fastnesses’, then-recently published as part of Rhymes and Rhythms in 1898. Henley, described by his close friend Robert Louis Stevenson (who acknowledged Henley as the inspiration behind Long John Silver in Treasure Island) as ‘boisterous and piratic’, was a strong and vigorous personality. Through his editorships of the Magazine of Art (later the New Observer) and the New Review he influenced many of his contemporaries with his particular brand of moral activism and did much to promote the literary work of Henry James, H G Wells, Hardy, Kipling, Yeats and, of course, Stevenson. During the 1890s and 1900s, his poetry was widely appreciated and enjoyed a vogue among composers, among them Butterworth, Delius, Gurney, Hart, O’Neill, Quilter and Francis George Scott. The North Wind is a muscular, flamboyant song, depicting the hunt as a metaphor of life’s energy and vitality in its swirling string figurations and lively dotted rhythms. A more lyrical central section, in the flattened mediant (B flat), focuses on the sea, ‘Time’s right-hand man’, as a metaphor of indefatigable nature. This material emerges triumphantly in the postlude, but not before Parry’s tonal reprise restores us to the turbulent rhythms of the first part, building inexorably to Henley’s activist declaration that ‘Life is worth living’ from first breath to last.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 1999