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Fantasie Sonata in B major

'Parry: Violin Sonatas' (CDH55266)
Parry: Violin Sonatas
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Track 10 on CDH55266 [14'14] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining

Fantasie Sonata in B major
The Fantasie Sonata—‘in einem Satz in H-Dur für Violine und Clavier’, unashamedly betraying its Teutonic roots—belongs to the feverishly prolific year of 1878 in which Parry completed a String Quartet in G, the Variations for piano in D minor, the overture Guillem de Cabestanh, and the sketches for the first movement of the Piano Concerto in F sharp. Moreover, along with the Nonet for Wind (1877), the Sonata marks the peak of Parry’s interest in the cyclic innovations of Schumann and Liszt. His sympathetic comments in the ‘Sonata’ article for the first edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians are evidence enough of his indebtedness to Schumann’s F sharp minor Sonata, Op 11, and Liszt’s B minor Sonata.

However, although these influences are clear from the one-movement form and the emphasis on thematic transformation, the internal organization is highly original. The opening, marked Allegro quasi maestoso, introduces a long, registrally expansive theme which provides the basic material for the rest of the work. This broad melody is then reiterated in a more tranquil mood for the second group in A flat, but is soon curtailed by a move to the dominant of F minor in preparation for the development. Yet instead of being tonally exploratory, the development is firmly orientated around F minor, and by its significant increase in tempo (Più moto), represents a type of self-contained, illusory Scherzo movement. A recapitulation of the opening ideas is interrupted by a slow movement in E minor. This is perhaps the most inspired section of the work, both in its highly imaginative use of sonata form and in the way the brooding nature of the first subject (derived from the opening theme) contrasts with the almost ethereal lyricism of the second. Also impressive is the central climax, deeply moving with its powerful sequence of suspensions, and sounding peculiarly Elgarian though predating that composer by well over a decade. Finally, a second, fuller recapitulation brings the work to a conclusion, incorporating in true Lisztian fashion a memory of the slow movement just before the coda.

It is evident from Parry’s diaries that the Fantasie Sonata was composed at great speed in a mere eleven days, during a period when Parry was able to work without distraction. He had by now given up working at Lloyd’s (since 1877) and was therefore able to devote most of his time to composition. He frequently visited Dannreuther who expressed his approval of the Sonata, particularly the slow movement. After a number of revisions it was performed at Orme Square (with Dannreuther and Holmes) on 30 January 1879. This was to be its only public hearing. After playing through the Sonata privately with Joachim on 25 March, Parry shelved it and the work has remained unpublished. It is not clear whether this was the result of personal dissatisfaction, or of adverse criticism from some performers whose scathing remarks Parry all too often took to heart. One entry of 23 March 1879 relates how one violinist, Straus, did not like either the Fantasie or the String Quartet because ‘there [were] not enough cadences in them, and too many keys!!’ In these early years of creativity, Parry often had to come to terms with disappointment. In the Fantasie Sonata Parry had, rather adventurously for his time, combined Brahmsian homogeneity with the progressive formal ideas of Liszt—both composers were still considered modern in the eyes of an English musical pedagogy which still idolized Mendelssohn as the epitome of compositional excellence. Furthermore, cyclic chamber works were still an uncommon phenomenon on the European mainland; Parry’s Sonata challenges the well-established chronology of cyclic forms in that it occurs some years before such works became fashionable (as in the works of Franck, Dukas, d’Indy, Fauré and Saint-Saëns). Seen in this perspective, it is perhaps not surprising that the work’s reception was so cool.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 1991

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDH55266 track 10
Recording date
3 November 1984
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Parry: Fantasie Sonata, Violin Sonata & Twelve Short Pieces (CDA66157)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: March 1991
    Deletion date: December 2005
    Superseded by CDH55266
  2. Parry: Violin Sonatas (CDH55266)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: January 2007
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining
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