Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Gerald Finzi - Cello Concerto; Clarinet Concerto (Yo-Yo Ma; John Denman)


Composer: Gerald Finzi
  1. Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Op. 31: 1. Allegro vigoroso
  2. Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Op. 31: 2. Adagio, ma senza rigore
  3. Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Op. 31: 3. Allegro giocoso
  4. Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 40: 1. Allegro moderato
  5. Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 40: 2. Andante quieto
  6. Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 40: 3. Adagio - Allegro giocoso

John Denman, clarinet (1-3)
Yo-Yo Ma, cello (4-6)
New Philharmonia Orchestra (1-3)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (4-6)
Vernon Handley, conductor

Date: 1977 (1-3), 1979 (4-6)
Label: Lyrita



Before he lost interest in classical music, at the very beginning of his career, Yo-Yo Ma made this outstanding recording of Finzi's magnificent Cello Concerto. It's still the finest available, though it faces strong competition from Naxos, offering without question the most dramatic and exciting account on disc of the first movement. This matters hugely, because the piece can hang fire if there isn't sufficient contrast between its first two parts. Ma plays magnificently: he's by turns impassioned and richly lyrical, and far less bland than he later became. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against his current preoccupation, "World Music", save for the fact that his Silk Road colleagues play that music so much better than he does. Well, here he is, fresh, young, and full of life. He never made a finer recording.

Clarinet soloist John Denman also plays his concerto with an extremely limpid, cantabile tone, and both here and in the Cello Concerto Vernon Handley offers his usual excellent work as accompanist. Handley's remake of the Cello Concerto for Chandos also was a big disappointment compared to his work here, not just interpretively but also sonically. These performances benefit further from Lyrita's by now legendary engineering at its very finest. Finzi may have been a minor master, but a master he certainly was, and this disc remains the best way not just to sample these two marvelous concertos, but to hear why Ma was such a promising young artist.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:


Gerald Finzi (14 July 1901 – 27 September 1956) was a British composer. He studied with Ernest Farrar, Edward Bairstow and Reginald Owen Morris. Finzi is best known as a choral composer, but also wrote in other genres. Large-scale compositions by Finzi include the cantata Dies natalis for solo voice and string orchestra, and his concertos for cello and clarinet. Thanks to both of his sons and the support of other enthusiasts, as well as the work of the Finzi Trust and the Finzi Friends, Finzi’s music enjoyed a great resurgence from the late 20th century onwards.


Yo-Yo Ma (born October 7, 1955 in Paris) is a French-born Chinese American cellist. Ma was a child prodigy. He graduated from the Juilliard School and Harvard University and has enjoyed a prolific career as both a soloist performing with orchestras around the world and a recording artist. He has recorded more than 90 albums and received 18 Grammy Awards. In addition to recordings of the standard classical repertoire, he has recorded a wide variety of folk music. Ma's primary performance instrument is a Montagnana cello crafted in 1733 valued at US$2.5 million. Another of Ma's cellos, the Davidov Stradivarius, was previously owned by Jacqueline du Pré.


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