Finzi: Earth and Air and Rain; By Footpath and Stile; To a Poetby Roderick Williams
Naxos’ Finzi: Earth and Air and Rain is the fifteenth entry in its “The English Song Series.” This disc features sturdy English baritone Roderick Williams in two of Gerald Finzi’s song cycles, combining one of Finzi’s first works in his mature style "Earth and Air and Rain, Op. 15" (1928-1933) with the early "By Footpath and Stile, Op. 2" (1921-1923). "To a Poet, Op. 13a" is not a “cycle” so much as it is a collection, assembled post-mortem from various unpublished songs dating from 1920 through 1948 by Finzi’s friend, Irish composer Howard Ferguson. Finzi’s favorite poet was Thomas Hardy, and of the 22 songs featured on the disc, 16 are set to Hardy’s verse. Gerald Finzi is the all-time champ in providing musical settings of Thomas Hardy, whose poetry often takes a back seat to such classic novels as The Return of the Native when his contribution to English literature is considered.
Interestingly, Finzi disliked Hardy’s novels, but was passionately devoted to the poetry. Finzi identified with the Hardy’s pet themes of fatalism, isolation, the unceasing forward progress of time and his agnosticism, bound up nonetheless with an irreconcilable obsession with Anglican Church ritual. In keeping with the mood of the verses, Finzi’s music is stable, expressive and emotionally deep without being particularly sentimental. Settings such as “"Waiting both"” and “"In a churchyard"” are moving, thoughtful and exceedingly well crafted. "By Footpath and Stile," with its string quartet in place of the piano accompaniment, looks forward to such settings as Samuel Barber’s "Dover Beach," and has the same kind of low-key sensitivity. "To a Poet, Op. 13a" contains Finzi’s settings of interesting poets such as James Elroy Flecker and George Barker.
Roderick Williams gets off to a bit of a rough start at the very beginning of the disc in “"Summer Schemes," but the rest of it is very good – he exhibits restraint in interpretation and concentrates on the subjects of the texts; a great approach for Finzi, whose music may be romantic in mood, but is classicist in texture. Pianist Iain Burnside, also a BBC commentator, provides a yielding accompaniment that moves easily along with the singer. Naxos’ recording is excellent, and if one is of a literary mind, and appreciates a good song setting in English, then Finzi: Earth and Air and Rain will provide mental stimulation, enjoyment and a not a little relaxation as well.
- Release Date:
- Earth and Air and Rain, song cycle for baritone & piano, Op. 15
- To a Poet for alto (or baritone) & piano, Op 13a
- By Footpath and Stile, Op. 2, for voice & piano
Performance CreditsRoderick Williams Primary Artist
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