ALBUM TITLE: Finzi
WORKS: I said to Love; Let Us Garlands Bring; Before and After Summer
PERFORMER: Roderick Williams, Iain Burnside
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557644
You would have to look hard for a better introduction to Finzi – and at budget price, too. The songs are the core of his achievement, and this well-chosen selection reveals that he was fully as sensitive to word setting as his more widely-feted compatriot Benjamin Britten, while being perhaps the more natural melodist of the two. There’s something rather admirable about a composer who knows his own limitations and sticks within them, working to perfect miniatures rather than strain after large-scale utterances that lay beyond him. The Shakespeare settings, Let Us Garlands Bring, are the best known of the songs recorded here, and they’re also the most easily accessible. But Finzi had a special affinity with the poetry of Thomas Hardy, and it’s the two Hardy cycles that show his modest genius at its most searching and wide ranging. At the heart of the Hardy set Before and After Summer is a song, ‘Channel firing’, that shows Finzi at his most impressive, creating an effect of grandeur and intensity on what is still a small canvas.
Roderick Williams’s elegant and delicate performances reveal the heart of this music without forcing anything – and mercifully without that coyness that often mars Finzi performances. And Iain Burnside is an excellent partner – ‘partner’ rather than ‘accompanist’: his contribution is every bit as important as that of Williams, though he’s never guilty of pushing himself forward. His gentle pointing of the surprising harmonic shifts in ‘The self-unseeing’ is judged to perfection. Warm-toned, nicely balanced recordings, too. Stephen Johnson