Lyrita – Gerald Finzi

0 of 5 stars

A Severn Rhapsody, Op.3
Nocturne (New Year Music), Op.7
Love’s Labours Lost, Op.28 – Three Soliloquies
Romance for string orchestra, Op.11
Prelude for string orchestra, Op.25
The Fall of the Leaf – Elegy for orchestra, Op.20
Introit for small orchestra and solo violin, Op.6
Eclogue for piano and string orchestra, Op.10
Grand Fantasia & Toccata for piano and orchestra, Op.38

Rodney Friend (violin)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Adrian Boult

Peter Katin (piano)

New Philharmonia Orchestra
Vernon Handley

Recording dates and locations not advised in Lyrita’s annotation; copyright dates are 1977 and 1978

Reviewed by: David Wordsworth

Reviewed: April 2007
Duration: 79 minutes

Most of the music on this CD had a somewhat tortured history. Gerald Finzi (1901-1956) was the most self-critical of composers and it seems unable to leave many of his pieces alone or carry out his first intentions. Two of the works, Introit and Eclogue were intended respectively as the middle movements of concertos for violin and piano (the one for violin was dug up and recorded a few years ago but thankfully doesn’t seem to have been taken up very seriously), but the composer seemed to know all along that they stood quite well on their own terms, each having that quiet beauty, certainty and unique melancholy that makes Finzi’s music so special.

However, Finzi’s melancholic streak can become stodgy in the wrong hands, but thankfully Sir Adrian Boult keeps the music moving forward and builds up some striking and powerful climaxes, not least in Nocturne (New Year Music); and this might surprise those listeners that think of this composer as being predominately a quiet voice.

Two highlights of this release are the two pieces for strings – Romance and Prelude, both extraordinarily conventional titles that tend to hide grave and profound depths of feeling – Finzi never wore his heart on his sleeve, he was a much too good a composer to do that; the sensitivity and emotion here is real and deeply touching.

Added to Boult’s original LP are two recordings made by Peter Katin and Vernon Handley of Finzi’s two works for piano and orchestra – which were made around the same time as Boult’s recordings, but precise information is not forthcoming in the presentation. Eclogue works beautifully, but I’ve never really been convinced by the bombast of the Grand Fantasia & Toccata. The composer himself wrote with delight how critics wrote of the piece as being “eccentric” – that it certainly is but the long, drawn out Fantasia looses its way and the peculiarly Walton-like Toccata sags. Both works are, as one might expect, given excellent performances, but the value of this compact disc is Boult’s impeccable selection of orchestral works.

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