I was delighted to
see Naxos keeping up the excellent work
with Finzi as the twelfth disc in their
English Song series. Previous titles
have included Holst, Britten, Warlock,
Vaughan Williams and Somervell, and
all have been of the highest quality
– a standard that has perhaps been surpassed
with this latest addition.
The disc presents three
song sets - I said to love (collated
as a set after Finzi’s death by Howard
Ferguson and Joy and Christopher Finzi),
Let us Garlands Bring and Before
and After Summer. While in Let
us Garlands Bring Finzi sets words
by Shakespeare, the other two are all
Hardy poems. Hardy was a poet with whom
Finzi felt a tremendous affinity, to
the extent that his copy of Hardy’s
Collected Poems was clearly his
"desert island" book.
It is rare to find
such a flawless disc. Roderick Williams
is the baritone, and is accompanied
by Iain Burnside. Williams has a lovely
rich, velvety tone, which becomes particularly
gorgeous in the lower register, and
he sings with great sensitivity to both
text and music, capturing the inflexions
perfectly. His enunciation is excellent,
and his pacing good – listen to how
naturally For Life I had never cared
greatly flows. He is capable of
tremendous power and punch (well exemplified
in I said to love) and includes
some charming word-painting in his performances
– listen to how he sings the word "laughing"
in Two lips.
The only song on this
disc that I can in any way criticise
is the dramatic and chilling Channel
Firing - one of (if not the) most
powerful songs Finzi ever wrote. I felt
that this could have been invested with
a little more passion, and that the
animals - the mouse, worm and cow -
could have been slightly better characterised.
Similarly, I have on occasion heard
the word "drooled," (describing
the glebe cow) sung with greater expression.
Iain Burnside is a
sympathetic and dexterous accompanist,
particularly in Channel Firing,
although he cannot, for me, rival David
Owen Norris’s adroit and masterly accompaniment
of David Wilson-Johnson on their Finzi
The Too Short Time disc, sadly
no longer available.
I would strongly recommend
purchasing this disc. Finzi set to remarkably
apt music some of (arguably) the greatest
poems in the English language – if you
are unfamiliar with either, you are
in for both a treat and a surprise.
And just as Finzi gives the words perfect
musical settings, so Williams seems,
if such a thing is possible, to have
the knack of the perfect interpretation.
see also review
Jonathan Woolf and Anne