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Gerald Finzi

Gerald Finzi

Born: 1901 Died: 1956

Gerald Raphael Finzi was born into a fairly prosperous family on 14th July 1901. His father was a successful London shipbroker. There were four other brothers and sisters. He was descended from Italian Jewish ancestry and his parents were, at that time practising Orthodox Jews. The composer never really acknowledged this religious heritage. In fact he wrote a number of distinctively Christian works including fine setting of the Magnificat.

Finzi was educated privately. However during the First World War his mother moved the family to Yorkshire. There Finzi studied with the young composer Ernest Farrar. After Farrar had received his call up papers, Finzi completed the first part of his musical education with the great organist at York Minster-Edward Bairstow.

It was during his early life that Finzi first became aware of the transience of life- one of the major themes of his music. In the space of a few years his father and three brothers died. Ernest Farrar was killed on the Western Front. This sudden realisation of the harshness of the world recommended the poetry of Thomas Traherne - the great Platonist poet who dwelt on the innocence of the soul of a child and of course William Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality.

In 1922 he moved to the Cotswolds and lived at the village of Painswick. This was part of the landscape beloved by Elgar, Howells, Gurney and Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was to have a profound effect on his life and music.

The works of this early period include the withdrawn work - By Footpath and Style, a somewhat neoclassical Violin Concerto, and the Severn Rhapsody. He also worked on a Requiem da Camera that was dedicated to his deceased composition teacher. This last work was only heard in its complete form in 1990.

In 1926 he was advised by the conductor Adrian Boult to move to London and take counterpoint lessons with R.O Morris. It would also put Finzi in the centre of musical activities. He taught for a period in the Royal Academy of Music. He became friends with many of the leading composers of the day - including Edmund Rubbra, Gustav Holst, Arthur Bliss and Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was during this period that Finzi began to compose some of his best song cycles.

In 1933 Gerald met Joyce Black at Lye Green in Sussex. He was on a working holiday and was staying in a cottage belonging to a certain Mrs. Black. There were two beautiful daughters. The elder of the two was interested in the arts and it was inevitable that she was attracted to the thirty-two year old composer.

Gerald and Joy Finzi built a lovely home at Ashmansworth on the Berkshire Hills overlooking a large stretch of typically English countryside towards Winchester. This was to be the family home until the composer's death. One of the interests the composer had was the cultivation of apples. He introduced many rare species into his orchard. It is said that he saved a number of them from extinction.

There was a period in the late 1930s and early 1940s when Finzi wrote virtually all his chamber music. This is a relatively unknown, yet extremely interesting part of his catalogue. Here are different sonorities than listeners had come to expect after hearing the earlier orchestral works. The String Trio is actually quite a bleak piece with none of the warmth of the Romance for Strings.

There was the literary side to Finzi's life. He loved much of the heritage of English literature; especially Thomas Hardy, Thomas Traherne and William Wordsworth. These interests are well represented in his settings for choir and for song. Certainly more than half of his songs are to words by Hardy. However he showed a liking for Robert Bridges and Edmund Blunden. The great choral works In Terra Pax and For St Cecilia are settings of words by these two great English poets.

He amassed a huge Library of precious books over his lifetime. It covered many topics including Poetry, Philosophy and Prose. On his death it was bequeathed to Reading University Library.

He was not like a number of composers who cannot see any good music apart from their own. He did much to put Charles Hubert Hastings Parry's manuscripts into some semblance of order. A major project embarked upon by Gerald and his wife Joy was the editing of the poetic works by Ivor Gurney. They were the driving force behind the Music & Letters 'Gurney' special issue in 1938. He expedited the publication of that composer's song settings. Perhaps the curious thing is that Gerald Finzi never actually met Gurney. Yet when one listens to the works of both composers there is quite definitely a stylistic relationship. Ivor Gurney could have had no better executor of his artistic estate.

Another of Finzi's interests was the editing of early music. He published a number of works by John Stanley, Charles Wesley and R. Mudge. He founded the Newbury String Players who were able to play many of his realisations from the 17th century.

After the Second World War Finzi wrote some of his most adventurous orchestral works. The ever-popular Clarinet Concerto of 1948/9 and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata for Piano and Orchestra based on earlier sketches for a piano concerto.

The last major work was the Cello concerto, in which Finzi was pushing the barriers- not only was it considerably longer than anything he had previously written (apart from the Intimations) it was more passionate and intense. There were new harmonies and part writing here.

Gerald Finzi was diagnosed as having Hodgkinson's Disease in 1951. In 1956 he and Ralph Vaughan Williams went on a walking trip up Chosen Hill in Gloucester. They visited the local sexton's cottage for tea. Unfortunately there were children with chickenpox in the house. Finzi contracted the disease. Due to his weakened state it caused severe brain inflammation. He died on 27th September 1956, aged 55 years. Strangely this was the very day after the first performance of his Cello Concerto.

It is difficult to sum up Finzi's achievement in a few words. He seems to have been at his best writing small-scale works. However, his two masterpieces are in fact his two longest. He had no problem in developing ideas.

His general musical style is elegiac. His music is frankly sad and autumnal. There is little that is light hearted or joyous. He is not afraid to write in a basically tonal style. However, in later works there is a considerable use of midland sometimes even harsh dissonance - especially in the Cello Concerto.

But perhaps his greatest legacy is his ability to set words to music. Few composers have equalled his achievement in any century. It is perhaps his songs that remain the most perfect of his creations.

Featured Items (See Related Items.)

Displaying 1-5 of 5 items.


Gerald Finzi : A Cappella Compositions : SATB : Sheet Music : Gerald Finzi

Gerald Finzi : A Cappella Compositions

Review: Gerald Finzi is one of the most admired British composers of the 20th Century. His music embraces a rich variety of moods, from elegiac lyricism, through spiritual reflection, to radiant joy. Finzi epitomised much that was characteristic of English Music, Literature and Landscape. He was part of that generation of composers who came to maturity in the middle of the 20th century. He was friends with Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edmund Rubbra, Howard Ferguson, Arthur Bliss and Robin Milford. The beautiful and sensitive nature of Gerald Finzi's compositions is displayed in these six excellent 4-part arrangements.

Songlist: All This Night, I Praise the Tender Flower, Clear and Gentle Stream, Wherefore Tonight So Full of Care, White-Flowering Days

More details
9307b | Sheet Music $11.95 | SATB add item to cart English Choral Arrangements


Gerald Finzi : Three Short Elegies : SATB : Sheet Music : Gerald Finzi : 073999164213 : 48009743

Gerald Finzi : Three Short Elegies

Review: One of most popular of 20th century British composers, in concert and on disc , Gerald Finzi's works are lyrical, subtly understated, often elegiac in tone, mingling human pain and natural beauty. These beautiful pieces are suitable for funerals and memorials.

Songlist: Life a Right Shadow Is, This World A Hunting Is, This Life, Which Seems So Fair

More details
9308b | Sheet Music $6.50 | SATB add item to cart English Choral Arrangements


Gerald Finzi : 7 Poems Of Robert Bridges : SATB : 01 Songbook : Gerald Finzi : 073999199765 : 48011654

Gerald Finzi : 7 Poems Of Robert Bridges

Review: A wide-ranging quintessentially English setting of lyrical poetry by Robert Bridges, resulting in some of the finest unaccompanied part songs of the period. There is a great deal of variety in the set from the simple and direct setting of I praise the tender flower, through the elated emotions of My spirit sang all day, to the sultry summer by the river in Clear and gentle stream and the weighty emotions expressed in the last song Wherefore tonight so full of care. Performed complete, lasting nearly 20 minutes, the Seven Part Songs provide a most attractive item in a concert programme, suitable for coupling with madrigals and part songs ancient and modern

Songlist: I Praise the Tender Flower, I Have Loved Flowers that Fade, My Spirit Sang All Day, Clear and Gentle Stream, Nightingales, Hast on, my joys!, Wherefore to-night so full of care

More details
7438b | Songbook $19.95 | SATB add item to cart


Gerald Finzi : Nightingales : SSATB : 01 Songbook : Gerald Finzi : 073999594881 : 48009740

Gerald Finzi : Nightingales

Review: Nightingales is a beautiful song for 5-part mixed voices (SSATB) a cappella, taken from Gerald Finzi's settings of Seven Poems of Robert Bridges.

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2982b | Songbook $6.95 | SSATB add item to cart


Quink Vocal Ensemble : Songs and Elegies : 00  1 CD : Gerald Finzi / Ralph Vaughn Williams : CHR 72501

Quink Vocal Ensemble : Songs and Elegies

Review: The talented Dutch vocal ensembles perform the works of Gerald Finzi and Ralph Vaughn Williams. Delightful!

Songlist: Time , Come away, death , Ring out your bells , Love is a sickness , Rest , The unquiet grave , Heart's Music , Linden Lea , Fain would I change that note , Alister Mc. Alpines lament , Silence and music , Life a right shadow is , This world a hunting is , This life which seems so fair , I praise the tender flower , I have loved flowers that fade , My spirit sang all day , Clear and gentle stream! , Nightingales , Haste on, my joys! , Wherefore to-night so full of care

More details
6801c | 1 CD $15.95 add item to cart Dutch Choral Music

Related Items ( See Featured Items )

Displaying 1-47 of 47 items.

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A LullabyGerald FinziTom Shorter (Editor)Sleep, Holy Babe - Lullabies for ChristmasSongbookMORE DETAILS 
All This NightGerald FinziGerald FinziGerald FinziA Cappella CompositionsSheet MusicMORE DETAILS 
All This NightGerald FinziSt. Olaf ChoirDawn Of Redeeming Grace 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
All This NightGerald FinziSt. Olaf ChoirChild Of Light Be Born In Us 2 CDsMORE DETAILS 
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Clear and Gentle StreamGerald FinziGerald FinziGerald FinziA Cappella CompositionsSheet MusicMORE DETAILS 
Clear and Gentle StreamGerald FinziGerald Finzi7 Poems Of Robert BridgesSongbookMORE DETAILS 
Clear and gentle stream! Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
Fear no more the heat o' the sunGerald FinziMary KingBoosey Voice Coach - High VoiceSongbook & CDMORE DETAILS 
God is gone upGerald FinziOpus 7From Captivity to the Holy City 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
God Is Gone Up, Op. 27, No. 2Gerald FinziUniversity of Alberta Madrigal SingersThe Passing of The Year 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
Gospel (Luke 2:1-20)- Pastors Bruce Benson and Jennifer Koenig In Terra Pax (Excerpt) Gerald FinziSt. Olaf ChoirWhere Peace and Love and Hope Abide 2 CDsMORE DETAILS 
Hast on, my joys!Gerald FinziGerald Finzi7 Poems Of Robert BridgesSongbookMORE DETAILS 
Haste on, my joys! Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
I Have Loved Flowers that FadeGerald FinziMinnesota Choral ArtistsWanting Memories 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
I Have Loved Flowers that FadeGerald FinziGerald Finzi7 Poems Of Robert BridgesSongbookMORE DETAILS 
I have loved flowers that fade Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
I Praise the Tender FlowerGerald FinziGerald FinziGerald FinziA Cappella CompositionsSheet MusicMORE DETAILS 
I Praise the Tender FlowerGerald FinziGerald Finzi7 Poems Of Robert BridgesSongbookMORE DETAILS 
I praise the tender flower Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
In Terra PaxGerald FinziSt. Olaf ChoirDawn Of Redeeming Grace 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
In Terra Pax (Excerpt)Gerald FinziSt. Olaf ChoirWhere Peace and Love and Hope AbideDVDMORE DETAILS 
Life a Right Shadow IsGerald FinziGerald FinziThree Short ElegiesSheet MusicMORE DETAILS 
Life a right shadow is Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
Lo, the Full, Final SacrificeGerald FinziPrinceton SingersIn The Midst of Life 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
My Lovely OneGerald FinziJudy Martin / Peter Parshal (Editors)Weddings For ChoirSongbookMORE DETAILS 
My Spirit Sang All DayGerald FinziPrinceton SingersIn The Midst of Life 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
My Spirit Sang All DayGerald FinziBemidji Choir and Chamber SingersAwakening 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
My Spirit Sang All DayGerald FinziLuther College Nordic ChoirEverlasting God 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
My spirit sang all dayGerald FinziClifford BartlettMadrigals and PartsongsSongbookMORE DETAILS 
My Spirit Sang All DayGerald FinziUniversity of Utah SingersIf Music Be the Food of Love 2 CDsMORE DETAILS 
My Spirit Sang All DayGerald FinziUniversity of Utah SingersI Thank You God for Most This Amazing Day 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
My Spirit Sang All Day Gerald FinziMinnesota Choral ArtistsWanting Memories 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
My Spirit Sang All DayGerald FinziGerald Finzi7 Poems Of Robert BridgesSongbookMORE DETAILS 
My spirit sang all day Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
NightingalesGerald FinziGerald Finzi7 Poems Of Robert BridgesSongbookMORE DETAILS 
Nightingales Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
Rollicum rorumGerald FinziMary KingBoosey Voice Coach - High VoiceSongbook & CDMORE DETAILS 
This life which seems so fair Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
This Life, Which Seems So FairGerald FinziGerald FinziThree Short ElegiesSheet MusicMORE DETAILS 
This World A Hunting IsGerald FinziGerald FinziThree Short ElegiesSheet MusicMORE DETAILS 
This world a hunting is Gerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
Thou Didst Delight My EyesGerald FinziCantusIntroit 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
Wherefore to-night so full of careGerald FinziGerald Finzi7 Poems Of Robert BridgesSongbookMORE DETAILS 
Wherefore to-night so full of careGerald FinziQuink Vocal EnsembleSongs and Elegies 1 CDMORE DETAILS 
Wherefore Tonight So Full of CareGerald FinziGerald FinziGerald FinziA Cappella CompositionsSheet MusicMORE DETAILS 
White-Flowering DaysGerald FinziGerald FinziGerald FinziA Cappella CompositionsSheet MusicMORE DETAILS 


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