Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)

CD 1
Earth and Air and Rain: [30:32]
Summer Schemes [2:29]
When I set out for Lyonnesse [2:02]
Waiting Both [3:12]
The Phantom [3:18]
So I have fared [2:29]
Rollicum-rorum [1:32]
To Lizbie Browne [4:21]
The Clock of the Years [3:55]
In a Churchyard [3:19]
Proud Songsters [3:03]
Till Earth outwears: [16:27]
Let me enjoy the earth [2:07]
In years defaced [3:23]
The Market-Girl [1:35]
I look into my glass [2:05]
It never looks like summer here [1:08]
At a lunar eclipse [3:33]
Life Laughs Onward [2:00]

CD 2
I Said to Love: [12:58]
I need not go [1:34]
At Middle-Field Gate in February [3:25]
Lips [0:50]
In five-score summers [1:36]
For Life I had never cared greatly [2:07]
I said to Love [3:01]
A Young Man's Exhortation: [28:53]
A Young Man's Exhortation [3:11]
Ditty [2:52]
Budmouth Dears [1:34]
Her Temple [l:58]
The Comet at Yell'ham [3:17]
Shortening Days [3:07]
The Sigh [3:47]
Former Beauties [3:03]
Transformations [1:24]
The Dance Continued [3:58]
Before and After Summer: [31:06]
Childhood among the Ferns [3:19]
Before and After Summer [2:29]
The Self-Unseeing [2:30]
Overlooking the River [2:24]
Channel Firing [6:05]
In the Mind's Eye [1:46]
The Too Short Time [2:53]
Epeisodia [1:59]
Amabel [2:45]
He Abjures Love [4:09]
Stephen Varcoe (baritone)
Martyn Hill (tenor)
Clifford Benson (piano)
rec. The New Concert Hall, University of South Wales, Cardiff 17-20 December 1984. DDD.
Originally issued on CDA66161/2
HYPERION DYAD CDD22070 [59:58 + 60:00]

This wonderful Hyperion two-disc reissue set presents Finzi’s Thomas Hardy song-cycles. It opens with Earth and Air and Rain and the distinctive and recognisable voice of Stephen Varcoe. Varcoe is a leading authority on English solo song - he knows this music intimately and is completely at home in the repertoire, with the result that he gets perfectly into the personae of the songs and communicates them brilliantly. I have heard his vibrato criticised, but personally do not feel it at all excessive, and therefore have no quibble on that front. His voice is particularly beautiful in the higher register, and characterful and commanding in the lower, resulting in intelligent, deeply convincing, and moving performances. His accompanist, pianist Clifford Benson, is excellent as well - just listen to the gossamer opening of Waiting Both. Benson is in exact accord with his singer - an equal partner, and similarly authoritative. Some might find the piano a little more dominant than usual here, but I feel it works well. The rollicking songs (such as Rollicum-rorum) are given very fine performances by Varcoe, full of energy and spirit. My only criticism is perhaps that the spoken introduction to The Clock of the Years is not as atmospheric or full of conviction as other versions - such as Howard Wong’s chilling whispered version, or Roderick Williams’ dramatic rendition on Naxos. Varcoe’s words are just too bland - although I am glad that he kept them in, rather than omit them, as some other recordings do.

Earth and Air and Rain is followed by Till Earth Outwears, with Martyn Hill, another outstanding singer, who performs with both great strength and flexibility - as heard especially in his superb version of Let me enjoy the earth.

I Said to Love concludes the first disc, and includes a wonderfully ghostly and wintery atmosphere from Varcoe in At Middle-Field Gate in February. The second disc contains A Young Man's Exhortation - with a particularly beautiful and tender performance of Shortening Days from Hill - and Before and After Summer. There are good accents from Varcoe and super piano accompaniment in the overwhelmingly powerful Channel Firing. You can’t go wrong with this recording of these immensely beautiful and brilliantly-crafted songs.

Em Marshall

Comparative review by Rob Barnett

Other relevant Finzi pages on MusicWeb International
Lyrita - same coupling - RB: see review; JQ: see review
Complementary Finzi song collection on Hyperion - see review
Diana McVeagh’s Finzi biography - see review
John France’s Finzi site

You can’t go wrong with this recording of these immensely beautiful and brilliantly-crafted songs.