Author Topic: Gerald Finzi  (Read 41096 times)

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Mark

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2007, 10:11:00 PM »
Thanks for that assessment of the Ma recording, Guido. As I already have the impeccable Hugh (and romantically inclined Wallfisch), it sounds as though I can safely strike the Lyrita disc from my wishlist. ;)

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2007, 12:56:07 AM »
I love the music of Finzi, but the one piece of his I love above all others is In Terra Pax, a wonderful evocation of Christmas which fuses a Robert Bridges poem with the story of the appearance of the angels to the shepherds, as recounted in the Gospel of St Luke. It is available on this 2 CD set



though my favourite performance of it, which was also on Decca, no longer seems to be available. It was conducted by Richard Hickox with Norma Burrowes and John Shirley-Quirk as the soloists. However this is still a useful set, including, as it does, the Langridge/Hickox Dies Natalis and For St Cecilia, the Magnificat, a Romance for String Orchestra, and two song cycles, Earth and Air and Rain, sung by Benjamin Luxon and Let us Garlands Bring, sung by Bryn Terfel.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2007, 03:56:09 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2007, 03:50:44 AM »
In Terra Pax is such a wonderful piece - Finzi said he intended it to fill the huge gap between Christmas Carols and the Christmas Oratorio. Diana McVeagh, Finzi's biographer calls it a masterpiece by a minor composer. I second the recommendation for that set - all wonderful performances, with my favourite Deis Natalis, and very good singing all round.

You are welcome Mark. Hugh's is such a brilliant performance. Let's just be thankful that they didn't ask Kliegel to fill the role. >:D
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Mark

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2007, 03:58:18 AM »
Let's just be thankful that they didn't ask Kliegel to fill the role. >:D

Couldn't resist that, could you? >:(



;D

Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2007, 10:45:04 AM »
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Couldn't resist that, could you?

No. ;D
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Offline sound67

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #25 on: October 21, 2007, 10:46:46 AM »
Thanks for that assessment of the Ma recording, Guido. As I already have the impeccable Hugh (and romantically inclined Wallfisch), it sounds as though I can safely strike the Lyrita disc from my wishlist. ;)

I have to say that I disagree with his assessment. Ma may not be "into" the idiom as much as players specializing in Englsih music are, but he's still vastly more talented than many of his generation, and also more than Tim Hugh. The Naxos recording isn't bad, but even without the competition from Lyrita it pales against Raphael Wallfisch's reading of the solo part.
"Vivaldi didn't compose 500 concertos. He composed the same concerto 500 times" - Igor Stravinsky

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Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2007, 11:04:09 AM »
As you know, I disagree strongly with that view (that Wallfisch is better than Hugh) and many agree with me, including Mark actually. Tim Hugh is one of the greatest talents of his generation in fact (quite a bit younger than Ma actually) - I absolutely agree that now Ma is deservedly the more famous - he has a natural charisma, unbelievable talent, great ideas, and an incredibe love for music that make him a truly unique package. But at the time of this recording, he was just 24 and this was his first commercial recording, and the reading he gives of the part, as I said, is really not up to his later standards. As I also said, it's not just talent that makes a recording great - tempos, mic placement, orchestra, conductor etc. also play a great role.

We could also discuss the three men's recordings of the Britten or the Walton, and I'm sure that we would disagree with these too! The Penguin guide recommends Hugh's Walton as the best recorded account actually if I remember correctly. All of these are opinions of course, and nothing beats the experience of listening for oneself, but since Mark agree with me on the Wallfisch/Hugh front, he might well agree with me about the Ma. He might not of course! I'll agree to disagree.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2007, 11:07:01 AM by Guido »
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Offline sound67

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2007, 11:09:35 AM »
We could also discuss the three men's recordings of the Britten or the Walton, and I'm sure that we would disagree with these too! The Penguin guide recommends Hugh's Walton as the best recorded account actually if I remember correctly. All of these are opinions of course, and nothing beats the experience of listening for oneself, but since Mark agree with me on the Wallfisch/Hugh front, he might well agree with me about the Ma. He might not of course! I'll agree to disagree.

The "best" recording of the Walton is Müller-Schott's anyway.  ;)
"Vivaldi didn't compose 500 concertos. He composed the same concerto 500 times" - Igor Stravinsky

"Mozart is a menace to musical progress, a relic of rituals that were losing relevance in his own time and are meaningless to ours." - Norman Lebrecht

Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #28 on: October 21, 2007, 11:13:38 AM »
That is indeed a fantastic one, as is his Elgar IMO. Of the 12 versions I own it ranks among the highest, along with Ma and of course Tim Hugh (!). There's a fair amount of recordings of this piece by quite famous artists that are really not as good though, even one with the composer conducting!
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Mark

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #29 on: October 21, 2007, 12:56:15 PM »
Guido, you have my unfailing support in the Hugh vs. Wallfisch debate regarding recordings of Finzi's Cello Concerto.

Wallfisch is all 'lovey dovey' and takes out all the bite, the sting and the hurt that the composer was so obviously feeling when he wrote this tremendous work. In short (and as I've said before), Wallfisch romanticises the work, and in so doing, misses the point of it almost entirely.

Hugh gives us humanity, energy, urgency, a railing against God and a submission to the the Will of the same. He also imbues the final movement with an unbridled sense of joy; and - perhaps more importantly - hope.

Had Finzi heard Wallfisch's version on his death bed (the Cello Concerto was the last thing Finzi heard on the radio the evening before he died), he'd have wished he'd died a day earlier.

Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #30 on: October 21, 2007, 01:27:32 PM »
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Hugh gives us humanity, energy, urgency, a railing against God and a submission to the the Will of the same. He also imbues the final movement with an unbridled sense of joy; and - perhaps more importantly - hope.

Couldn't have put it better myself (though of course Finzi was a committed agnostic, if thats possible!).

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Had Finzi heard Wallfisch's version on his death bed (the Cello Concerto was the last thing Finzi heard on the radio the evening before he died), he'd have wished he'd died a day earlier.

Lol! Maybe a little extreme!

Actually he showed few signs of recognising the music as his own, that night, and he died in the morning. So sad.

I have tried to get a copy of this broadcast for ages (with the brilliant cellist and pedagogue Christopher Bunting as soloist), but it seems like it's gone missing - the BBC didn't keep everything in those days as they still weren't sure of the value of radio.

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Mark

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #31 on: October 21, 2007, 01:42:44 PM »
Yes, I'm aware of Finzi's agnosticism ... but don't you feel in his music a deep and real sense of the spiritual? I certainly do, and nowhere more so than in the Cello Concerto. It's almost a battle of Beethovian proportion between God and composer.

So as to be fair to the Wallfisch recording, I'm listening to it again right now. Wallfisch's playing is beautiful, lyrical; his bow dancing on and off the strings in those opening bars. But where's the heart? Where's the passion? Where's the anger born of knowing you have cancer and the prognosis is the worst it can be? Handley and the RLPO are delivering their share and then some, no doubt about that. Wallfisch just isn't pulling his weight. He's singing his way through, not fighting his way through, as Hugh does with such drama and genuine blood, sweat and tears in his Naxos recording. All the Chandos alternative has to offer (aside from Handley and co.) is greater sonic strengths and better mic positioning. A shame: such a great opportunity lost.

Mark

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #32 on: October 21, 2007, 02:14:13 PM »
And so, we're onto the second movement. Here, the opening tempo drags - back to the reference Hugh recording, and we find things are a tad quicker; there's optimism (or perhaps stoic resignation) to contrast with those parts of the score which are necessarily and appropriately bittersweet. The Chandos recording comes down on the wrong side of Hollywood sentimentality and schmultz; there's syrup here, and it leaves a funny taste in the mouth. Handley's as much to blame: he fails to set the pace needed if we're to believe that the pulse which coarses so hard through the first movement is still a good way above resting. What we get is something close to a flat line. Finzi's perhaps saying, 'I'm going to die, but I'm not dead yet'. Taken too slowly, this movement feels out of place by the time the finale begins.

Looking at that final movement, what do we find Wallfisch doing? Trying to make the opening bars into some kind of perverse Bach Cello Suite-esque affair. Plucking strings too boldly, with no reverence for the preceding movement. Not so with Hugh, who plays delicately here, gently setting the mood for the sunnier main theme that signals that joy for life and all-important hope of which I spoke earlier. No, Wallfisch clearly doesn't 'get' this work. Or if he does, he didn't on the day of recording.

Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #33 on: October 21, 2007, 02:24:01 PM »
Very interesting. I agree with almost everything that you are saying - I couldn;t really put my finger on why I didn;t like Wallfisch, but I think you've got it.

In this  piece I think Finzi really plumbs the depths of the human condition, of the meaning of life and if he doesn't always have the answers, he conveys his anguish, reconciliation and hope utterly convincingly and extraordinarily beautifully.

By the way if you think the slow movement is slow with Wallfisch, listen to Ma! Handley sets an even slower pace (14.38)! I think the slow movement is the one that Wallfisch does best.

As you probably know, Finzi was an excrutiatingly slow worker, and it took him four years to pull together the first two movements. But the third was written in 9 days! Although it is not quite of the same fastidious quality of the first two movements, I don't think it shows up as a weak movement, and the incredible life affirming joy it projects is extremely poignent and moving given what we know about his circumstances.

The final mercurial flick and scamper seems an odd way to finish such a monumental work - but Finzi is never drawn to bombast of course. It also starts in an odd way - those plucked double octaves (a 15th apart!), and then then the chordal elaboration of the theme, with the wind instruments appearing out of the mists - it really has nothing to do with the rest of the movement. It's a sort of bridge passage I suppose between the second and third movements.

He also provides a bridge between the first and the second by making the final chord of the first movement fade into nothing, taking almost half a minute to do so, so that the serenity of the Andante Quieto seems far more natural than it otherwise would after those four enormous hammer blows.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2007, 02:32:54 PM by Guido »
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Mark

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #34 on: October 21, 2007, 02:36:19 PM »
Ma goes slower in the middle? Is that possible? :o

Interesting comments about the third movement. It does feel very different to the other two, yet never out of place. That gentle opening for soloist was a master stroke. It ties everything together with the second movement. And the closing flourish. How appropriate for an agnostic facing an abrupt and uncertain (yet, conversely, quite certain) end.

I'm now listening to Hugh again. Man, the guy makes you believe him. He's not so much the work's soloist as the inner voice of its composer. There's a section nearer the beginning of the first movement where the orchestra are carrying the theme, while Hugh's cello sobs. You can picture Finzi, facing his drastically shortened future, sat in his study composing and then, perhaps, breaking down. And then there's Hugh's flawless handling of the long cadenza. When I heard Wallfisch playing this, I thought, 'What the hell are you doing, man!? This isn't a showcase for your virtuosity - it's a man's private pain. Show some damned respect!'

Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2007, 03:00:14 PM »
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I'm now listening to Hugh again. Man, the guy makes you believe him. He's not so much the work's soloist as the inner voice of its composer.

I am glad that people feel things so similarly to me!

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There's a section nearer the beginning of the first movement where the orchestra are carrying the theme, while Hugh's cello sobs

Which bit are you referring to? (timing?)

 I have discussed this piece a lot with my cello teacher, and at first she thought Wallfisch was far superior, but the more we talked about it over a few months, the more she was swayed to Hugh's interpretation.

The ending of the piece is like a final desperate struggle before the end, like a trapped animal expending that last burst of energy before the inevitable, but there seems to be a final brief moment of elation and perfect realisation.
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Mark

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #36 on: October 21, 2007, 03:10:11 PM »
Which bit are you referring to? (timing?)

4' 08" - 4' 16"

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The ending of the piece is like a final desperate struggle before the end, like a trapped animal expending that last burst of energy before the inevitable, but there seems to be a final brief moment of elation and perfect realisation.

For me, that ending is almost like an unconscious premonition. Here's Finzi, a self-affirmed agnostic, faced with his own mortality. He expects there to be nothing beyond the veil of death. Yet what do we hear at the close of his last work? A brief moment of surprise, perhaps? It's as though we're going with him, musically, to the moment of his death, and we discover with him that death is nought but an illusion - there is something more, but we can't go further with him and dispell our own fears about death: this is where we leave him, surprised that he was wrong, and happy to be so.

Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #37 on: October 21, 2007, 03:17:10 PM »
All this theorising is very interesting, and not innapropriate I think, given what we know about Finzi, but we should remember that the piece was finishes a year or so before he died. Who knows what it all really means...
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Mark

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #38 on: October 21, 2007, 03:18:26 PM »
All this theorising is very interesting, and not innapropriate I think, given what we know about Finzi, but we should remember that the piece was finishes a year or so before he died. Who knows what it all really means...

Absolutely. Empty/fanciful conjecture on my part. ;)

Offline Guido

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Re: Gerald Finzi
« Reply #39 on: October 21, 2007, 03:20:26 PM »
lol, not at all! I did say I thought that it was entirely appropriate given his circumstances, and Finzi's worldview.
Geologist.

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