Compositions: By Footpath and Stile, Romance for string orchestra, Prelude for string orchestra, Interlude for oboe and string quartet, Elegy, Five Bagatelles
Performers: Marcus Farnsworth bar,
Catalogue Number: Resonus RES10109
Gerald Finzi is is the perfect musical counterpart to Thomas Hardy’s poetry. They both capture the bucolic melancholy and elegiac loneliness of England. In the precocious song cycle By Footpath and Stile, Finzi’s first published composition, the verses are sung by baritone Marcus Farnsworth. This musical idiom is an acquired taste, but the work stops short of being what I’d call impossibly arty. I’d also hate to sit through a performance by anyone with diction and expressive shading less excellent than Farnsworth’s and the Finzi Quartet’s exquisitely sensitive playing.
This CD also contains works expanded for string quartet from the original piano accompaniment by Finzi scholar Christian Alexander – inexplicably in my opinion, as Finzi showed virtually no interest in the string quartet genre. The Interlude for oboe and string quartet is made of darker, sterner stuff and becomes quite dramatic, but despite Ruth Bolister’s playing, almost outstays its welcome at 12 minutes. The Romance composed in 1928 was one of my two favourites. Gem-like and innocent in its eloquence, it’s the sort of piece that would have immortalised the composer, even if he’d composed nothing else.
The Five Bagatelles for clarinet are enjoyably insouciant, except for the sublime Romance (my other favourite piece on the CD). They should really have been placed as a centrepiece, to lessen the possibility of being elegied out.