The main work on this CD is a setting of William Wordsworth's quite long poem Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, written 1802-4. Finzi set 9 of the 11 stanzas of the poem (verses 7 & 8 are omitted) and the work is already 40 min long. To get into the piece of music we need to know something of the poem and its author's philosophy of life. Perhaps the opening of the Vth stanza sets the overall tone of the poem - and Finzi's interpretation of it - most succinctly: `Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, / Hath had elsewhere its setting, / And cometh from afar.' So the poem is about the immortality of the human soul, emerging from and eventually returning to the `immortal sea' of cosmic energy, though retaining its individuality; and this sense of mysticism is conveyed effectively by Finzi's music. It is also a nostalgic lament for the loss of the innocence of childhood. In the programme notes for the first performance in Gloucester Cathedral for the 1950 Three Choirs Festival, Finzi described himself as someone `who is driven to composition by the impact of the words'. Finzi began composition during 1936/8 but had to suspend work during the war. The performance here is by Philip Langridge (tenor) with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir directed by Richard Hickox. I must confess I prefer this version of this work by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under David Hill and James Gilchrist as soloist to another version I have with Philip Langridge.
The other work on this Naxos disc is the five-movement Ceremonial Ode For St. Cecilia - a rousing work with echoes of Edward Elgar. It was composed in 1947 setting words by the poet Edmund Blunden. It opens with a fanfare to the Delightful Goddess, but the remainder of the work is rather more reflective. It makes an entirely suitable complement to the main work. I had never heard it before I bought this CD for the Wordsworth setting but it is a beautiful work exquisitely performed.
Gerald Finzi: Violin And Cello Concerto