Finzi: Cello Concerto; Eclogue; Grand Fantasia &Toccata

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COMPOSERS: Finzi
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Cello Concerto; Eclogue; Grand Fantasia &Toccata
PERFORMER: Tim Hugh (cello), Peter Donohoe (piano); Northern Sinfonia/Howard Griffiths
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555766
Finzi’s Cello Concerto was written under the shadow of the fatal illness that was to kill him the year after its completion. Although it rounds off with a high-spirited Allegro giocoso, mortality and night thoughts dominate both the straining, anguished opening Allegro moderato and the achingly lyrical Andante quieto, forming a necessary flip side to the uniquely personal version of pastoral with which Finzi is more frequently associated. Cheerful finale notwithstanding, it’s a bleak vision, which Tim Hugh and the Northern Sinfonia communicate with depth and feeling. Hugh is recorded more as first among equals than prominent soloist, which works well, except in the long first-movement cadenza, when he has a tendency to sound a little remote and peripheral.

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Following on from such turmoil, the Eclogue of 1927, part of an abortive piano concerto, comes like a voice from a prelapsarian world of endless summer days where the nearest thing to a calamity would be a shower of rain. Peter Donohoe plays it with great charm and simplicity before uncovering a much more hard-edged and driven side in an excellent performance of the Bach-influenced Grand Fantasia and Toccata. Overall, this is a fine disc and a valuable contribution to Finzi’s centenary. Christopher Wood