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BARGAIN OF THE MONTH

Gerald FINZI (1901-1856)
Lo, the full, Final Sacrifice and other choral works

  1. God is gone up, Op.27, No.2 (1951)
  2. Magnificat, Op. 36 (1952)
  3. My lovely one, Op.27 No.1 (1947)
  4. Welcome sweet and sacred feast, Op.27, No.3 (1953)
  5. Thou didst delight mine eyes, Op.32 (1951)
  6. Let us now praise famous men, Op.35 (1952)
Seven Unaccompanied Partsongs, Op.17 (1934-1937)
(set to poems by Robert Bridges)
7) I praise the tender flower
8) I have loved the flowers that fade
9) My spirit sang all day
10) Clear and gentle stream
11) Nightingales
12) Haste on, my joys!
13) Wherefore tonight so full of care
  1. Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice, Op.26 (1946)
Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge /
Christopher Robinson (Director)
Christopher Whitton (organ)
Aaron Burchell (alto soloist in the ‘Magnificat’)
Gareth Jones (bass soloist in the ‘Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice’)
Recorded 17-19 March 2001 in St. John’s College, Cambridge, England. DDD
Naxos English Choral Music Series
NAXOS 8.555792 [61:43]

Only very occasionally does a series of works come together so incredibly well that it captures the mood of the record buying public. The performers are undoubtedly in pristine form, the director is in his prime, the recording and recording venue and studio engineers are first class, the repertoire is top quality and relatively unknown. Couple this with a forward-looking and respected record company who are marvellous at marketing and add to this potent mix of ingredients, that crucial ‘x’ factor. All this makes for a heady cocktail on this fifth release in the Naxos series of English Choral Music with the St. John’s College Choir, Cambridge under the direction of Christopher Robinson.

Following on from the previous releases of Britten, Rubbra, Tavener and Howells in the series the St.John’s College Choir and Christopher Robinson continue their outstanding success with breathtaking performances of Finzi’s music which are equally distinguished. There is a real sense of freshness and purpose as they communicate this wonderful music to the listener who will surely for the most part be hearing these works for the first time.

Renowned for writing in the English pastoral idiom, Finzi is a most thoughtful and assured composer, in fact a real craftsman. These works for unaccompanied choir or choir with organ accompaniment are most lovely and Finzi displays a real talent for setting the words so sensitively alongside really memorable musical ideas. On this recording we have a relatively equal mixture of liturgical and secular texts, in particular the ‘Seven Unaccompanied Part Songs’ to poems by Robert Bridges, which Finzi treats with a balance of reverence and superb lyrical communication.

It almost seems unfair to single out one piece, but I feel that the real star on the disc is the Festival Anthem: ‘Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice’ for choir and organ set to words by Robert Crashaw. From the extended introduction for solo organ to the concluding fifty second a cappella ‘Amen’ dramatism and radiance abound.

This is undoubtedly a winning release of marvellous music magnificently sung. Magical music for a cold winter’s evening and the perfect antidote to the excesses of the festive season. At super budget price too, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

Michael Cookson



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