Tag Archives: Gerald Finzi

Gerald Finzi, Eclogue for Piano and Strings

The second of six brief descriptions of music I’ve written up for WRTI’s 60th Anniversary Classical Collection of listener favorites. Here is a fuller description of the project, under the first post, the Ave Maria of Franz Biebl.

CountryLane480Gerald FinziEclogue for Piano and Strings. Peter Donohoe, piano, Northern Sinfonia, Howard Griffiths. The Best of Finzi. Naxos 8.556836, Tr 14

When the boy was seven, his father died. Three brothers died. His first composition teacher was killed in WWI. He devoured poetry, wrote music, moved to the country, walked for hours in solitude. He cultivated apple trees, and cataloged and published a sick friend’s music. At 50 he learned he had Hodgkin’s disease; he wouldn’t live out the decade.

From this seemingly melancholy life Gerald Finzi sculpted music of soft, shimmering beauty. He never finished a piano concerto, but after his death one movement of it was published as Eclogue. The dictionary calls “eclogue” pastoral poetry. This is the essence of Gerald Finzi.

Psalm 113

The Temple University Concert Choir sang my Psalm 113 last night, the second time this section of Vespers has been performed separately. The first time was when I transcribed it for mezzo-soprano soloist, two-part girlchoir, and piano. Lyric Fest commissioned that transcription as part of Two Laudate Psalms, for Suzanne DuPlantis and the Pennsylvania Girlchoir.

Psalm 113 is originally for S.A.T.B. with two sackbuts and harp. Here’s an excerpt:

I made a piano reduction of all of Vespers, and it’s with this piano accompaniment that Paul Jones conducted the Temple forces. It was wonderfully done. I was touched by how much the singers said they enjoyed it, and by how much Paul had them floating on top of the chant rhythms.

Also on the concert were works of Palestrina, Monteverdi, Carissimi, Duruflé, and the Schicksalslied of Brahms. Three of the supple Partsongs of Gerald Finzi stood out to me. Their brilliance reminded me of “All this night,” which I sang way back in high school, and I am always surprised at how astonishing his music is. I suppose it’s silly, always to be surprised by the same thing.

But doesn’t Spring always do that, too?

“Wake, O earth, wake everything!”