Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
In Years Defaced (six songs for voice and orchestra)
Prelude for string orchestra
Romance for string orchestra
Violin Concerto

John Mark Ainsley (ten)
Tasmin Little (violin)
City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
world premiere recordings of the concerto and five of the six songs
2 Dec 1999, 30 May 2000, Watford Colosseum
CHANDOS CHAN 9888 [54.34]
Crotchet    Amazon UK    Amazon US

It had to happen. One of these days someone was going to go back to the family archives and revive the Finzi Violin Concerto. It was premiered in the 1920s under Sargent and was withdrawn by the composer with only the totally characteristic Introit (middle movement) surviving. The Introit is known from the Boult LP Lyrita recording (never reissued - now there's a surprise!) where the soloist was Rodney Friend. Friend has a tighter tone production without the light vibrato used by Tasmin Little. However we may as well be talking about a completely new work here for the quick and fanciful outer movements are astonishingly neo-classical touched with Stravinsky's Pulcinella and the iconoclastic Bliss of Conversations. The work would pair neatly with Vaughan Williams Concerto Academico and further North Lars Erik Larsson's Violin Concerto.

The Six Songs are orchestrated as follows To a Poet (from O Fair to See) by Colin Matthews; When I Set Out for Lyonesse (Finzi original); In Years Defaced by Jeremy Dale Roberts; Tall Nettles by Christian Alexander; At a Lunar Eclipse by Judith Weir; Proud Songsters by Anthony Payne. The songs stand up well to this processing. It is only a pity that all were not orchestrated by the composer himself or by Howard Ferguson. Ferguson's work on orchestrating the Interlude (original for oboe and string quartet) was well night seamless with Finzi's natural mode of 'speech'. As it is all the composers show great skill and sensitivity. The first three songs listed sound authentically Finzian (no surprise in the case of Lyonesse) but the others, while naturally preserving the vocal and lyric line, use touches which are outside the Finzian range. At a Lunar Eclipse carries strong hallmarks of Vaughan Williams. That some of these pieces do not sound like the Finzi we have received down the years since 1975 is no condemnation. There is no suggestion that the composers were enjoined to create a Finzian sound. What we have instead is a celebration that will give these songs some new life.

The Prelude and Romance are predictable, though typically gentle and touching, disc-mates; just as nicely done as on the Nimbus/William Boughton versions (differently coupled of course).

This is a very fine disc (if short on playing time). I presume that reconstructions of Finzi's 'symphony' and 'piano concerto' (from which we known the Eclogue and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata) are impending during this centenary year. Long may this process continue although Finzi lovers may find the Violin Concerto's outer movements something of a jolt out of Finzi's accustomed track.

Rob Barnett

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