ALBUM TITLE: Finzi
WORKS: Five Bagatelles; Prelude and Fugue; Interlude; Introit; Romance; Elegy; Diabelleries (with variations by Lutyens, Maconchy, Bush, Rawsthorne, Vaughan Williams, Ferguson, Jacob and Finzi)
PERFORMER: Cologne Chamber Soloists
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 903 1894-6
The nationality of Gerald Finzi’s music is never in doubt, yet he was never a cosy little Englander. Chromatic windings; sudden dissonances; surges of rapture and pathos, signs perhaps of his Jewish ancestry: it’s a complex mix. The Cologne Chamber Soloists certainly feel at home in this current selection, particularly the wonderful Five Bagatelles, idiomatically arranged by Christian Alexander for clarinet and string quartet. The 1938 Prelude and Fugue for string trio, dedicated to Finzi’s composition teacher RO Morris, never quite shakes off its bookish air, but that still leaves gems like the lovely Romance (another Alexander arrangement), the masterful Interlude for oboe and string quartet, and the soaring violin-and-piano Introit, arranged from Finzi’s early violin concerto by his friend Howard Ferguson. Throughout, the Cologne group’s sensitive performances make it clear why Finzi’s music, modest in scope but not in effect, can grip so firmly.
Connoisseurs should also pounce on the disc for Diabelleries, a delightful variation set of the mid 1950s, never before recorded, elaborated by nine British composers from a comically humble tune, ‘Oh! Where’s My Little Basket Gone?’. Finzi’s contribution, untypically, is a rather inflexible dance movement, a ‘Forlana’. Other composers’ fingerprints are easier to spot. Rawsthorne’s intervals writhe about wistfully, Alan Bush displays his muscles, while Elisabeth Lutyens goes out on a limb with her spindly, modernistic ‘canonic interlude’. A joyful discovery, this set, and played with great spirit. But it’s still Finzi’s disc. Geoff Brown