Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gerald Finzi - Intimations of Immortality; For St Cecilia (David Hill)


Composer: Gerald Finzi
  • (01-13) Intimations of Immortality, Op. 29
  • (14-18) For St Cecilia, Op. 30

James Gilchrist, tenor
Bournemouth Symphony Chorus & Orchestra
David Hill, conductor

Date: 2006
Label: Naxos



Deeply felt music with a response to match make the Finzi choice so close

These are fine performances but the balancing of the tenor soloist is not entirely happy. The voice is closely recorded and emerges as too separate from the choir. Other versions of the Intimations manage it better, Philip Langridge being perhaps a shade too recessed under Hickox (EMI – nla), John Mark Ainsley just about right under Matthew Best (Hyperion, 1/97). All three give a sensitive account, my own preference lying with the Hyperion (clearest in texture and probably most thoughtful) but only marginally so. The tenors are much of the same school, all of them intelligent and musicianly in approach, Ainsley with the most even production, Langridge with the most personal touch but also with a sense of high notes reached only by effort and technical know-how, Gilchrist with more ease but a tendency to make that small crescendo on individual notes which is inimical to a true legato. The Bournemouth chorus sing cleanly but I find the others clearer and more expressive with their words. The orchestra sustain all comparisons and one feels David Hill’s direction to be both firm and inspiring.

The ode incorporates some of Finzi’s most deeply felt writing. It ‘integrates’ more fully with each hearing, yet I still can’t quite reconcile the more characteristic musical idiom with the Waltonian percussion and the rhythmic insistence of the third section. The poet himself imposes a co-existence of rejoicing and regret, of stark recognition and stoical resolution, though Finzi often seems more atuned to the misgivings.

In For St Cecilia, text (by Edmund Blunden) and music match perfectly, though Finzi is perhaps rather self-consciously wearing Elgarian garb in the opening, appearing as his unmistakable self in the lovely fourth section, ‘How smilingly the saint among her friends sits’. The two works couple well and are informatively introduced in a note by Andrew Burn.

-- John Steane, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: ***
MusicWeb International  BARGAIN OF THE MONTH


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.


David Hill (born on 13 May 1957 in Carlisle, Cumberland, England) is an English conductor and organist. Renowned for his fine musicianship, David Hill is widely respected as both a choral and orchestral conductor. He is the the 9th Musical Director of The BBC Singers (since 2007), and Musical Director of The Bach Choir (since 1998). Hill was also Associate Guest conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He has made more than 80 recordings, including many award-winners, can be found on the for Decca/Argo, Hyperion, Naxos and Virgin Classics labels.


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