Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gerald Finzi - English Composer

As long as I've been listening to classical music, I'm delighted that I can still hear something new (to me) that hits like a breath of fresh air. At 7AM on weekend mornings, Boston's "NPR Arts and Culture" radio station WGBH plays a nature soundtrack. The nature sounds then fade out as a musical selection, usually gentle and blooming fades in. Today the music was a piece by Gerald Finzi, his Romance for Strings, Op. 11, performed by William Boughton and the English String Orchestra. Finzi has been described as a "pastoralist" style composer.

There is so much newness and richness around us. Today, I may have been more receptive because I'm considering myself "on vacation". Oh, summer is sweet.

Brian McCreath is the Producer and Host of the "Classical Weekend". His musical selections for the program are inspired. He hosts the show in a friendly and informative yet unobtrusive style, putting the music first. I often wish I could just sit and listen to the program start to finish - occasionally I do! He also responded personally to my email inquiry about the exact title of this Finzi piece, which I appreciate.

Gerald Finzi, English Composer

Born: 14 July 1901, London (England)
Died: 27 September 1956, Oxford (England)

The works of the English composer Gerald Finzi do not add up to any great number. So why is it that his compositions demand such attention? The main reason is the sheer quality of the music. His settings of Hardy and Shakespeare have never yet been equalled in their tunefulness, colour and skill of word-setting. His anthems guide the listener along an epic spiritual journey, for example, the moving ‘Lo the Full, Final Sacrifice’ which shows Finzi at his most intensely, profound, leading to surely the most beautiful ‘Amen’ coda in all music. His instrumental compositions are lyrical and at times have a distinctly English melancholy, as seen in his vast Cello Concerto (the last work he wrote) which takes the listener through the whole gamut of emotions which a composer, with his life literally hanging in the balance (from leukaemia), experienced. He was deeply influenced by the composers and other artists working around him, notable examples including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Edmund Blunden, Gustav Holst, and his wife, the artist Joy Finzi (nee Black). Other than music, he was also an experienced apple farmer, and saved many English apples from obscurity in his orchard at Ashmansworth, Hampshire. An extremely well-read man, his knowledge of English literature was perhaps one of the deepest at the time, as seen by his extensive library now housed at Reading University. Perhaps it was through this living ‘in’ the poetry of his homeland that his music naturally pervades each text, breathing life into it and sounding completely at one with the words. As an introduction to Finzi’s skill as a songwriter look no further than his masterpiece of the Shakespeare setting, ‘Let us Garlands Bring.' Gerald Finzi may have left us few works, but they are have such polish and complete mastery, that one wonders why they are not more popular.

Above paragraph from:

Of course, see also: