Down Longford Way:
The Music of Katherine Parker
Jane Edwards (soprano) Ian Munro (piano)
Tall Poppies TP174
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Yet another in Tall Poppies’ admirable series devoted to the music of Australian composers, this compilation will
bring to many a first experience of Katherine Parker’s music.
Ian Munro is an inspired choice as interpreter of Parker’s piano music; he shapes to its demands like sparkling wine to a goblet. His interpretations are consistently communicative in the best sense.
Listen to his account of A Water Colour, playing informed by a charm and expressiveness that radiate authority. So, too, Nocturne, which falls most agreeably on the ear. And in One Summer Day – from Four Musical Sketches – Munro clothes each note in glowing tone, no less so in Red Admiral with its gently rocking figurations.
But in Down Longford Way – from which the compilation derives its title – the music, for all Munro’s persuasiveness, sounds rather cliched, sentimental music in the tradition of the honeyed Home Sweet Home. Percy Grainger thought it a work of genius. But if DLW is something of a disappointment, Brushing up the Leaves is pure delight, an engagingly, up-tempo delight in the style of a fox trot. Arc-en-Ciel calls some of Chaminade’s piano pieces to mind, a little gem in salon style.
Soprano Jane Edwards is most persuasive in I wait my Lord, music infused by a melancholy, forsaken mood. But You’ve two-score, three-score years before you yet, has a robustly striding, march-like quality. Yellow’s the Robe for Honour sounds rather lowset for a soprano.
Of all the songs, it’s the last three that provide most satisfying listening; each might have been purpose-written for Julie Andrews for some lightweight Broadway show. Sentimental in text and setting, they work very well on those terms – and Edwards rises well to the occasion. Here, and throughout, Munro is a near-perfect piano partner, loyal to both singer and composer whose accompaniments he plays with exquisite refinement and stylistic authority.
Munro’s liner notes, an engrossing read, tell us about a composer’s life dogged by ill fortune, too many disappointments and serious illness: TB and goitre problems. Parker’s total compositional output totals less than one hour’s duration.
Bouquets to the Tall Poppies team. It’s ventures such as this that ensure that Australia’s early music history is responsibly and imaginatively preserved.
© 2005 Neville Cohn