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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finzi - Intimations of Immortality - a 30 year wait over, 26 May 2006
This review is from: Finzi - Intimations of Immortality; For St Cecilia (Audio CD)
A series of tragedies profoundly affected Finzi in his early years. His father died just before his eighth birthday, and by the time he was eighteen he had lost his three elder brothers and his much-loved teacher, Ernest Farrar. This dreadful sequence of events, and the appalling losses of the First World War that formed the backdrop to his adolescence, gave Finzi an acute awareness of the impermanence of life, further heightened when at the age of fifty he discovered that he was dying of leukaemia. These experiences may well explain the underlying hint of melancholy in his music, heard particularly in the Ode Intimations of Immortality. Wordsworth's Ode, subtitled `from recollections of early childhood' is a lament for the lost joys and intuitive wonder of childhood. Finzi's music springs from his love of literature and the English countryside and his instinctive feeling for words is exceptional, the natural speech-rhythms and cadences of his musical lines complementing perfectly each chosen text.

This new Naxos recording has been 30 years in the waiting. Having loved the work since the recording by Ian Partridge, Vernon Handley and the Guildford Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra on Lyrita (long unavailable) I have been waiting for a comparable modern recording. (My infatuation for this piece even extended to me advertising for a chorus and orchestra so that I could sing the tenor solo). So now, after slightly disappointing recording on Hyperion and EMI, we have a superb new recording by James Gilchrist, David Hill and the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Orchestra. The clarity of the recording is superb and the tenor, James Gilchrist, give a clear, youthful interpretation of the tenor solo part.

The recording also features Finzi's Ode for St Cecilia which plays homage to Purcell, Dowland and Handel while Cataloguing various Saints such as St Dunstan and St George as well as St Cecilia. While the piece pays homage to other composers it is not a pastiche a remains essentially Finzi.

I will retain the old Lyrita LP for the word-pointing of Ian Partridge and the unique sound of vinyl, but after a 30 year wait I also now have a superb new recording, which will keep me happy and I hope will encourage more choral societies to perform this work.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Major but Rarely-Heard Finzi Work, 10 Jun 2006
J Scott Morrison (Middlebury VT, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Finzi - Intimations of Immortality; For St Cecilia (Audio CD)
Much as I like the music of Gerald Finzi (1901-1956) I had never heard his largest work -- the longest at any rate, at almost forty minutes -- 'Intimations of Immortality' for tenor, chorus and orchestra. Based of course on Wordsworth's poem that sings of the instinctual freshness and sensitivity of childhood and laments its passing when one passes into adulthood, it is a heartfelt work from Finzi whose own childhood and youth were painful, lonely and tragic, and whose escape into music and literature set his course in adulthood, an attempt to keep that child's responsiveness alive in himself. Finzi set nine of the eleven stanzas of the Wordsworth poem -- VII and VIII are omitted -- with orchestral interludes between each of them, and it took him almost twenty years to complete, interrupted as it was by the horror of the Second World War. He finished it in 1950. The central theme of the poem (in IV) -- 'Whither is fled the visionary gleam? Where is it now, the glory and the dream?' -- is set to somber tones and is ultimately answered by the 'intimations of immortality' in IX and X -- 'O joy! that in our embers / is something that doth live ... in the faith that looks through death.' Clearly this is a deeply personal work for Finzi.

Tenor James Gilchrist and the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus provide appropriate musical expression for Finzi's setting of the alternately troubled, rapt or joyous discourse of Wordsworth's poem. The Bournemouth Symphony is its usual expert self under the direction of David Hill.

The CD is filled out with a performance of Finzi's setting of a 'Ceremonial Ode' by Edmund Blunden, 'For Saint Cecilia' written specifically for a celebration of St. Cecilia's Day in 1947. Although there is some enjoyable ceremonial music here, particularly in the use of Waltonian fanfare motifs, this is public and rather impersonal music that, for me, doesn't particularly warrant frequent hearing although it is expertly done here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gerald Finzi: Intimations of Immortality & Cantata For St. Cecilia, 28 Aug 2012
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Finzi - Intimations of Immortality; For St Cecilia (Audio CD)
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
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Finzi - Intimations of Immortality; For St Cecilia
Finzi - Intimations of Immortality; For St Cecilia by Gerald Finzi (Audio CD - 2006)
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