WORKS: Violin Concerto; In Years Defaced (orch. various); Prelude, Op. 25; Romance, Op. 11
PERFORMER: John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Tasmin Little (violin); City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9888
Finzi, one of the subtlest and most seductive of the English elegists, will no doubt be celebrated widely in this his centenary year. But few tributes will match this one for sheer creativity and quality of performance. The disc not only boasts the first recording of the enchanting Concerto for Small Orchestra and Solo Violin, but some new orchestrations of his songs by living British composers, thoroughly in tune with his idiom. The Finzi Trust invited five composers to select and orchestrate a song each, including Jeremy Dale Roberts, who supervised the project. They took as their cue Finzi’s own deft orchestration of the brisk, swinging song ‘When I set out for Lyonnesse’, building around it a circle of more introspective gems. There is Colin Matthews’s visionary response to ‘To a poet a thousand years hence’ and hypnotic bass harp chords give Judith Weir’s ‘At a lunar eclipse’ an apt nocturnal strangeness, while Anthony Payne’s ‘Proud Songsters’ takes flight with ravishing strings and tambourine. Most of Finzi’s songs were written for the baritone voice; here tenor John Mark Ainsley brings an exquisite darkness to these persuasive readings.
The Prelude and Romance for orchestra both reveal Finzi’s predilection for neo-Baroque styles, and receive tenderly intuitive performances. He always found slow movements easier to write than fast, and the Violin Concerto is dominated by a long, yearning sereno. Little could not be a more committed, yet gentle soloist: this is absolutely her repertoire. Finzi wrote the concerto in his mid-twenties for a young violinist with whom he was in love but, dissatisfied with the first movement, he discarded it. Vaughan Williams, to whose own Concerto accademico the vigorous first movement and hornpipe finale surely owe much, persuaded the young composer to return to it. Helen Wallace