Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
A Severn Rhapsody Op. 3 (1923) [6:14]
Nocturne (New Year Music) Op. 7 (1925) [10:23]
Three Soliloquies for small orchestra from the Suite - Love’s Labours Lost Op.
28 (1946) [4:33]
Romance for string orchestra Op. 11 (1928) [8:08]
Prelude for string orchestra Op. 25 (1950s) [5:16]
The Fall of the Leaf, Elegy for orchestra Op. 20 (1950s) [9:14]
Introit for small orchestra and solo violin Op. 6 (1925) [9:48]
Eclogue for piano and string orchestra Op. 10 (1929, 1956) [10:33]
Grand Fantasia and Toccata for piano and orchestra Op. 38 (1928, 1953) [15:14]
Rodney Friend (violin), Peter
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Vernon Handley (Eclogue, Fantasia)
rec. 1970s. ADD LYRITA SRCD.239 [79:26]
Let me first admit that these performances have always been
close to my heart. Collectors will not need prompting from
me to note that Boult’s contributions derive from SRCS84
and the two Katin-Handley performances from SRCS 92. On the
reverse of that was the Clarinet Concerto with the estimable
John Denman now coupled with Yo Yo Ma’s recording of the
Cello Concerto (Lyrita SRCD236 - see review).
Boult does no wrong for me in this selection. He even manages
to instil some coherence into the diffuse and not-entirely-satisfactory A
Severn Rhapsody, an early work in which Finzi had not
reconciled himself fully to rhapsodic writing. Despite the
diffuseness of his inspiration, and the over-insistent lure
of Butterworth as an inspiration, Boult charts an assured
path. Was there a more bookish English composer than Finzi,
quoting Lamb and the Elizabethans with equal facility and
perception? Nocturne (New Year Music) is darker than
one might have anticipated though ever-present sadness is
the key. Note how wonderfully well the string and wind answering
phrases are gauged, and so too that vocalised stamp as it
evolves and mutates. Few can have judged the stalking pizzicato
figures as well as Boult or the triumphant Festive end of
the piece – magnificently done, like raised voices sung in
praise, crowned by brass – before the return of those moments
of reflection and sadness.
The Three Soliloquies for small orchestra from the
Suite Love’s Labours Lost are light and graciously
done. The Adagio is the most characteristically Finziesque
in its melodic contours but the suite shows as a whole how
usefully he wrote for lighter forces and in lighter style.
Then there comes a string of beautifully crafted works. Rodney
Friend can be heard in the Romance, a second cousin
of the Introit, which soon enough follows in the programme,
though its serene, untroubled and effortless unfolding is
somewhat different to the better-known work. The Introit itself
is splendidly done and Friend proves himself a fine soloist.
He can’t dislodge my preference for Boult’s live performance
with Gerald Jarvis but I’m not sure anyone can – this might
be a minority view but I love that performance.
And so on it goes. The Prelude has grave twists in
harmony and is sombrely reflective whilst Boult fashions The
Fall of the Leaf – another study in passing time – with
as much care as to its reflective, philosophic moments as
to its lyric charge. Then to end we have the unsurpassable – I’ll
risk it – Katin performances of the Eclogue and the Grand
Fantasia. The former sounds like a Ravel slow movement,
the whole thing memorably done. And the Grand Fantasia is
heard in this performance by the man who premiered it in
1954. It’s not an easy piece to get to grips with but once
you do you will relish the slightly hokey Stokowski-Henry
Woodisms and the strange brief hallucinatory appearance of
Copland in the Fantasia.
Superb sound and Diana McVeagh’s astute notes cap a mandatory
purchase for lovers of the English muse, and of course for
Finzi lovers in particular.
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