Hubert Parry: String Quartet No.1


Composed in 1867 at the tender age of 18, Hubert Parry’s First String Quartet was the composer’s first delve into the chamber music genre. Although largely remembered for his vocal music, Parry’s quartets are well worth a listen. 


The Music

Set into three contrasting movements, the First String Quartet is an insightful look into Parry’s youthful style of the time. 


Movement I

The opening movement is full of energy, with the top violin taking charge of the melody. Typical of the time, the viola and cello take very much an accompanying role during this movement, with the two violins taking the melodic lead. The principal melody is playful and full of energy as the bouncy accompaniment supports the development. Parry’s youthful voice is certainly present here, with pristine arrangement of the instruments adding to the quality of the music. After one final visit to the main theme, the movement ends triumphantly. 


Movement II

The slow second movement opens with a lullaby-like theme led by the viola. This heart-wrenching theme is rich in texture and shows Parry’s considered temperament at the time of composition. The deep tones of the cello add to this effect, with the slow development of the theme being drawn out over seven minutes. There are no huge twists in this movement, making it a serene and surprise-free movement of music. 


Movement III

The opening measures of the finale are tempered and controlled, which shows a huge classical era influence. As the voices masterfully intertwine, the theme is played both as a solo and tutti. Hints of themes gone by can be heard throughout, in particular the slow central section which hints to the second movement. The contrapuntal writing from Parry during this movement is intricate, with each note being considered in the mix. As the final climax plays out, this wonderful quartet comes to a bold end as the ensemble unite for the final chords.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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