Finzi: Dies natalis; Intimations of Immortality

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Dies natalis; Intimations of Immortality
PERFORMER: John Mark Ainsley (tenor)Corydon Singers & Orchestra/Matthew Best
Richard Hickox’s recordings of these sublime works with Philip Langridge on Argo (Dies natalis, no longer available) and EMI (Intimations) have long been jewels in my collection, so I keenly anticipated this new release. Finzi, whose childhood was lonely and tragic, valued originality and prized a child’s fresh vision above any training or experience. Dies natalis (Day of Birth), from Traherne (1636-74), resembles a Baroque cantata and celebrates the new-born infant’s sense of wonder, while Intimations of Immortality (from Wordsworth’s Recollections of Early Childhood), exhorts us to keep the infant’s vision fresh and alive. Matthew Best delivers fine performances that are nicely shaped and John Mark Ainsley’s tone is warm and secure throughout, illuminating such Wordsworth lines as ‘Waters on a starry night…’ But it is to Langridge I would turn for the more committed and penetrating vision. His desolate rendering of lines like ‘The things which I have seen I now can see no more’, in Intimations, is heart-rending and Hickox draws performances from his choirs and orchestras that are more vibrant and moving. However, for those who favour this coupling, Best is a confident recommendation. Ian Lace