This well judged anthology
has been assembled from recordings originally issued on Nimbus
NI5101 (1987) and NI5366 (1993). In the real world Nimbus
have basically put together all the orchestral Finzi they
had so there is no representation of the voice. However let’s
not be too prissy about a representative sampling when so
much here taps faithfully into the pastoral-spiritual pulse
that is uniquely Finzi’s.
The disc was first issued
in 2001 to mark the centenary of Finzi’s birth but now enjoys
vigorous distribution on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary
of the composer’s death. It carries two signature works;
pieces of music that with modesty but clamant mastery allowed
Finzi’s music to wend its way into the hearts of music-lovers
across the world. Little happened from the post-mortem slough
into which his music had sunk until the mid-1970s. The odd
song and of course the EMI-Wilfred Brown version of Dies
Natalis. Then Lyrita and the Finzi Trust began to make
recordings that were to build the Finzi revival. We knew
things had changed when a sense of frustration that he did
not write more began to produce revivals of the Violin Concerto
(Chandos) – only a success in the middle Introit – and
the suppressed song cycle By Footpath and Stile which
turns out to be interesting rather than fully characteristic
Finzi. If we can have the Elgar Piano Concerto, Symphony
3 and P&C6 then the Finzi Piano Concerto and the Symphony
for Strings: The Bud, The Blossom and the Berry is
not unthinkable provided the Finzi Trust will approve and
can find a sensitive composer to realise these projects.
The Finzi Lyritas are
now likely to appear at last on CD in 2007 but we must not
forget that several companies also contributed invaluably
and one of them was Nimbus. In this case we have the only
recording of the suite from the incidental music to a BBC
radio broadcast of Love's Labour's Lost. True, the Three
Soliloquies were included on the LPO/Boult Lyrita LP
(SRCS84) but here we get the largest selection – in fact
the full suite as presented in London by Finzi’s friend John
Russell on 26 July 1955.
What of the performances?
Boughton takes his Finzi at a placid and very well judged
pace. The Eclogue has been pushed too fast on a couple
of occasions notably and uncharacteristically by Piers Lane
on The Decca Finzi Collection (see review).
a lovely relished performance without self-indulgence and
with a sense of healing
in its wings. The strings are not as sweet as they were with
the LPO in the version by Peter Katin on Lyrita LP SRCS 92
but it may be some months before we can compare on CD. While
the ESO strings have a slightly acrid edge they are much
better than good overall. The woodwind and brass are full
of character and we hear this especially in the music for Love's
Labour's Lost where the BBC commission led Finzi into
styles he might not otherwise have tackled such as ceremonial
magnificence for Introduction, Mendelssohnian chase
for The Hunt and the lamb-skipping Finale.
This is an ebullience also heard in the dynamic sections
of Intimations. Much of this including Moth, Nocturne, Quodlibet and
the Soliloquies finds Finzi in full-throated natural
We also get a fine and
recommendable version of the Clarinet Concerto. Hacker is
a gracious soloist who gives all the signs of being conscious
of the importance of counterpointing with the tricky string
writing. Even if this version does not displace my affection
for the John Denman version I rate it highly. In any event
this is an amazingly resilient work going by the many recordings
from Plane to Stoltzman to Johnson, Marriner to King. The
Nimbus technical team have wrought wonders with the ethereal
writing at the start of the Adagio. In fact the strings -
without being sumptuous - sound in much better heart than
in the Eclogue.
The Prelude and
the Romance are wistfully put across. Classic Finzi.
Do not underestimate how easy it would be to sink these pieces
if they were done with anything less than sensitivity and
poise. Boughton has discerned the mot juste so far
as pacing and dynamics are concerned.
The notes are by Andrew
Burn and Diana McVeagh so we know that we are in safe hands.
Finzi’s modesty and mastery
are to be heard in faithful reflection in this tenderly recorded
single disc collection.
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