(1899-1973) The Trees So High – Symphonic Ballad in A minor (1931)
[34:07] Gerald FINZI (1901-1956) Intimations of Immortality. Ode for tenor, chorus and
orchestra (1950) [43:12]
Thomas Allen (baritone)/Guildford
Philharmonic Choir/Philharmonia Orchestra/Vernon Handley (Hadley)
Ian Partridge (tenor)/Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir/Vernon
rec. 1979 (Hadley) and 1975 (Finzi) LYRITA SRCD.238
It was Lionel Hill,
a friend of Moeran and Albert Sammons’s son-in-law, who sent
me a tape of Patrick Hadley’s The Trees So High and told
me to listen. He was right. He added a symphony by Tubin to
the tape and told me to lend an ear to that as well. Right again.
So it’s to him that I owe my admiration for both these composers,
one that shows no sign of slackening; in fact it gets stronger.
He sent me the Lyrita
of course as there was none other in the catalogue. Now we have
the Chandos rival on 9181 coupled with Sainton’s The Island
– the same Sainton who had such a disastrous 1930 stint in Sammons’s
old quartet, the London. Hadley wrote that his was a work of
“some thirty minutes’ length” though there seems to be a consensus,
on disc at least, that thirty-four is the preferred timing.
I wonder how long Boult would have taken; slightly tighter I
suspect. Auditors from critic Frank Howes (“equally beautiful
in its larger outlines as in the smaller detail”) to fellow
composer Armstrong Gibbs all loved it. And it is a ravishing
work, one tinged of course with tragedy and loss; one would
have thought Hadley would have preferred a female soloist but
he was insistent on the point that it must be a baritone.
between Handley on Lyrita and Bamert on Chandos are fairly negligible
in respect of timings. Handley is a fraction quicker in the
instrumental movements and slightly slower in the finale but
that in itself is really of no account. The more immediate sound,
School of ’79, favours the Lyrita over the slightly more cushioned
Chandos. Handley also brings just a touch more spontaneity and
affecting intimacy to the string writing. Perhaps it will come
down to the singers – Tom Allen for Handley and David Wilson-Johnson
for Bamert. The former’s tone is magnificently centred, the
interpretation having a stoic reserve. Wilson-Johnson is a fine
musician but his tone isn’t as centred as Allen’s – his stance
is one of a greater mourning from the off as well. It doesn’t
quite gather weight.
For me the Finzi
will always be Ian Partridge’s work. I’ve reviewed both the
John Mark Ainsley/Matthew Best Hyperion CDA66876 and the much
more recent Gilchrist/Bournemouth/Hill on Naxos 8.557863, the
former in the context of the latter, but there’s no question
in my mind that the restoration of this 1975 recording is an
answer to a prayer. To hear Partridge sing his way around the
thickets of textual and technical difficulties is to appreciate,
once again, how singer and song can be so closely aligned as
to be inseparable. Everything Partridge does illuminates the
text without over-balancing it. There are no exaggerations,
simply as complete a mastery as I think one could find in this
repertoire of the needs of projection and internalisation. This
is simply masterful all round, from tenor and conductor to orchestra
and not least recording.
Lyrita Finzi was issued alone on LP.
Now it has an appropriate companion.
The Hadley was coupled with One Morning
in Spring, conducted by Boult. Both
these recordings are foundation stones
of a British collection. Don’t waste
a second worrying about duplication
– what’s £13.50 against eternity?
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John Quinn Seen & Heard Editor Emeritus Bill Kenny Editor in Chief
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