COMPOSERS: Gerald Finzi
ALBUM TITLE: Introit: The Music of Gerald Finzi
WORKS: Introit; Lo! the full, final sacrifice – Amen (arr. Mealor); Love’s Labour Lost – Three Soliloquies; Romance, Op. 11; A Severn Rhapsody, etc
PERFORMER: Amy Dickson (saxophone), Nicholas Fleury (horn), Thomas Gould (violin), Tom Poster (piano); Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon
CATALOGUE NO: Decca 478 9357
This looks like a ‘greatest hits’ collection, and in part it is. There are lissom performances of Finzi’s pastoral miniatures Prelude, Romance, and A Severn Rhapsody, and conductor Nicholas Collon shapes the Three Soliloquies from Love’s Labour’s Lost with winning pliancy. Thomas Gould is the songful soloist in Introit, the only movement Finzi kept of his early Violin Concerto, and pianist Tom Poster floats beguilingly through Eclogue, the slow movement of a piano concerto never finished.
And there, unfortunately, the good news ends, as, in the name of producing an ‘all-instrumental CD to aid wider appreciation of one of England’s best-loved composers’, nearly half the tracks (eight in total) are recorded in arrangements by composers who ‘share Finzi’s intuitive lyrical instincts’. The moony version of Fear no more the heat o’ the sun that results, stripped of Shakespeare’s eloquent poetry in favour of a saxophone, is shockingly inferior to Finzi’s great vocal setting. Who is Sylvia? and Come away, death get similar treatment, the intimacy of Finzi’s piano writing anonymised in wispy orchestral arrangements. Ear-candy for drive-time radio, possibly, but these misguided make-overs are both condescending and misleading as an introduction to Finzi’s music.