Parry, Sir Charles Hubert Hastings



Born at Bournemouth, England. His father, Thomas Gambier Parry, a country gentleman and owner of the old estate of Highman Court, was noted as a painter and inventor of a preserving process, known as "spirit frescoes." Hubert's early intimacy with his father's studio developed in his artistic nature the love of correctness and beauty of form symmetrywhich is so characteristic of his music. He probably inherited his industrious energy and strong academic tendency from his mother's father, Henry F. Clinton, a noted classical writer. At seven years of age Hubert was sent to school, going first to Malvern, where he began to write chants and hymns when only eight, then to Twyford, where an organist, wholly incompetent as a teacher, attempted to instruct him in piano, and in 1861 to Eton. During his year at Twyford he had frequently visited Samuel Wesley at Winchester Cathedral, where he was always kindly received, and it was there that his great admiration for Bach commenced. While at Eton he took lessons in harmony of Sir George Elvey, organist of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and distinguished himself as a pianist, composer and singer. When only eighteen his cantata, O Lord, Thou Hast Cast Us Out, won him the degree of Bachelor of Music at Oxford, and was sung at Eton just before he left to enter Exeter College, Oxford, in 1867. He continued his work on the piano and organ; took part in the concerts of his own college's Musical Society, and founded the Oxford University Musical Club. He also took lessons in composition from Sterndale Bennett and George A. Macfarren, and spent one vacation at Stuttgart, studying under Hugo Pierson. After taking the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1870 he was bookkeeper in Lloyd's shipping house, his father objecting to his becoming a professional musician, but after the failure of that firm three or four years later he devoted himself entirely to music. In 1872 he had commenced taking piano lessons from Edward Dannreuther, from whom he benefited more than from any other teacher, and for about seven years studied under him, producing at the concerts given at Dannreuther*s house in Orme Square his chamber-music, some of which is now lost. In 1879, at the Crystal Palace, was played his first orchestral work that commanded attention, the overture, Guillem de Cabestanh, though an intermezzo religioso for strings had been produced at the Gloucester Festival in 1868. But the works which have won for him the great popularity which he now enjoys are his large choral pieces, without one of which a musical festival in England is now incomplete. Yet, the first of these, Scenes from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, failed when first produced at the Gloucester Festival in 1880.


In 1883 he was made choragus of Oxford University and professor of composition and musical history at the Royal College of Music, where he succeeded Sir George Grove as principal in 1894. In 1883 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Music from Cambridge and in 1884 from Oxford, and since 1900 he has been professor of music at Oxford. He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1898 and made a Baronet by King Edward at the coronation in 1903, for which he wrote the processional music and an anthem, I am Glad. In 1905 he became commander of the Victorian Order. Parry married Lady Elizabeth Maude Herbert, of Lea, sister of the Earl of Pembroke in 1872. Their daughters, Mrs. Arthur Ponsonby and Mrs. H. Plunket Greene, are both musical, the former a pianist, the latter a violinist.


Besides being a prolific composer Parry is an excellent writer. He began his literary work with poems published in Macmillan's Magazine in 1875. He has written the words to Judith, Job, and a number of his works, and contributed to the Academy and other periodicals. He is the author of valuable text-books, and his lectures have extended beyond Oxford University and the Royal College of Music to the Royal Insti- tution, the Midland Institution, Birmingham, and elsewhere. As a composer Parry is ranked the successor of Purcell, England's greatest composer. In all his compositions form holds the first place. His works are nearly all sacred or semi-sacred in character, and possess that which makes a strong appeal to the nobler feelings of humanity. They are academic in style, truly English in manner and almost faultless in their musicianship. Parry writes rapidly, but always revises everything carefully before publication. His compositions are very numerous, and he is constantly called upon to write for the provincial musical festivals, where he frequently conducts his productions. His works include the oratorios, Judith, Job, and King Saul; the choral works, Prometheus Unbound, L'Allegro ed il Pensierpso, Tennyson's Lotus Eaters, a choric song, Magnificat, A Song of Darkness and Light, De Profundis, Te Deum, Voces Clamantium, and the Pied Piper of Hamelin; the odes, The Glories of Our Blood and State, Ode at a Solemn Music, Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, Invocation to Music, War and Peace, and Ode to Music. He has also written dramatic music to The Birds, The Frogs, and The Clouds, by Aristophanes; to Stuart Ogilvie's Hypatia; and to Eschylus' Agamemnon. Among his orchestral works are the overtures, Guillem de Cabestanh, and To an Unwritten Tragedy; four symphonies; Suite Moderne; and Characteristic variations in E minor. He has also written much chamber-music and a large number of songs. His symphonic poem, The Vision of Life, was given for the first time at the Cardiff Festival in 1907.