As will be clear from
the heading, this book has been out
for more than seven years. I had always
intended to review it and the very recent
appearance of John Dressler’s ‘Alan
Rawsthorne Bio-Bibliography’ gave
me the opportunity to consider it.
It forms an extremely
useful supplement to Stephen Banfield’s
highly detailed if congested Finzi biography
(Faber), now in paperback. It is a complement
to that book and indeed to the biography
‘that is to come’; the one that everyone
has awaited for years - the study by
These Greenwood Press
Bio-Bibliographies follow a certain
formula.. They are more in the nature
of resource books than providing intrinsically
engaging reading in their own right.
This one has its preoccupation with
lists of this and that leavened by two
biographical narratives covering 22
of the 200 pages. The first is by his
friend and collaborator, the composer,
editor and pianist Howard Ferguson.
The second is by John Dressler himself
who, in personable and attractive style,
touches in the details around the Ferguson
narrative while producing an essay that
is readable in its own right.
The Dressler study
is further filled out by fifteen smaller
personal tributes and profiles. These
are from singers (Stephen Varcoe, Ian
Partridge), instrumentalists (John Denman,
Yo-Yo Ma, Alan Hacker), fellow composers
(Robin Milford and John Scott) and conductors
(Stephen Cleobury and Paul Spicer).
The book is laid out
in three further Parts and seven Appendices.
These form the meat of what is on offer.
Finzi’s output was
not large. It is covered in 44 pages
organised by genre (e.g. Solo Songs;
Works for voice and orchestra, Arrangements
and Editions). Each entry lists full
title details, cross-references to other
parts of the book as well as details
of premieres and other significant performances
(a few fascinating surprises here).
The Discography rattles through the
growing ranks of CDs and previously
cassettes and LPs and 78s. Also listed
are private archive recordings. I had
understood that the original broadcast
of the Cello Concerto (Christopher Bunting,
1956) had been recorded but it is not
listed here. This part of the book has
dated most with the vigorous recording
scene adding new recordings and reissues
of older CDs and LPs. The Bibliography
lists the usual press cutting details,
articles and the writings by Finzi as
well as correspondence held by the BBC
Data Centre at Caversham Park, Reading.
The Appendices cover:
the make up of cycles and sets, an alphabetical
list of works, a chronological list,
a list by opus number, a list of song
sketches, a list of Hardy song sketches
and the Oxford manuscript collection.
Finally there is an
invaluably detailed index.
Typography and printing
is excellent with high definition in
the print and a sober but attractive
orange-brick coloured vinyl bind.
Finzians who may have
joined the ‘select’ since 1997 should
be reminded of this book and should
order it now. It remains uniquely valuable.