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4.4 out of 5 stars
14
4.4 out of 5 stars
Finzi - Cello Concerto & Grand Fantasia
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 6 September 2011
I have loved this music for a long time, and still love it. I don't find the Cello Concerto lacking in emotion or quality, as some reviewers have suggested. The themes of the first and second movements are beautiful and the orchestration satisfying, very moving. I love the way Tim Hugh plays (sample his talent on another wonderful Naxos recording, Holst, Invocation for Cello and Orchestra). The last movement is exciting and full of character in my opinion, it often springs into my mind. The Eclogue is extremely beautiful too, wistful and evocative. This is really a must-have for anyone who enjoys music purely for its beauty and feeling, whether or not it is gound-breaking or critically acclaimed. I have thousands of recordings and this is one of my favourites.
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on 24 February 2004
If Finzi had listened to his friends less, and followed his own musical instincts more, he would no doubt have left a more substantial legacy. As it was he abandoned several large works when they were in an advanced stage of composition. His Violin and Piano concertos being two such pieces. This disc which pairs his most substantial finished work, his Cello Concerto, with works that began life as two movements of his abandoned piano concerto shows us what could have been.
The Cello Concerto is a fine work on a generous scale, 37 minutes long in this recording. It was composed while Finzi was facing death from incurable illness. The First movement is full of disquiet, as if trying to put off the inevitable, the central slow movemen finds some solace and the Final movement has a confident and determined voice. It is the most substantial completed work the composer has left us.
The Eclogue for piano and strings is a radiently peaceful work, it puts me in mind of Vaughan Williams Violin and Orchestra work The Lark Ascending. If you like one you will certainly like the other. Put this on at the end of a stressful day to quiet your soul.
The Grand Fantasia is a bold musical statement. The Piano plays solo for 5 minutes before it is joined by the orchestra. The only dissapointment on hearing these two works is that we cannot hear the full concerto that Finzi planned.
The standard of playing and sound quality are good throughout. Peter Donohue on the Piano - both the playing and recording - is particulary impressive. Another great Naxos disc.
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on 5 October 2003
Why oh why is Finzi so appallingly neglected as a composer when works such as these are available to the concert hall? One can only assume there is some kind of musical snobbery influencing the more academically minded critics to dismiss everyone as minor who isn't Brahms, Schoenberg or Stravinsky. But this is fine music making and one could hardly want for more persuasive accounts of these works. Do you need proof? Then listen to the excellent Peter Donohoe in Finzi's exquisite Eclogue and all will be revealed. This is a work of such simple poetry and hearstopping serenity, Bach-like in its structure initially, until touched, upon the orchestra's entry, quite magically by Finzi's pastoral lyricism. Late night music for reflection and introspection. Very beautiful. No less worthy is the wonderful cello concerto, here given a fine performance by Tim Hugh. How often we hear the Elgar and the Dvorak, justifiably one might add, and yet how unreasonable that this should be so overlooked. Donohoe's rendition of the Grand Fantasia is likewise memorable, and along with the other recordings on this label of the Clarinet concerto, the Severn Rhapsody and the Romance for Strings, these are undoubtedly jewels in Naxos's crown. The recording is excellent and unless you have a heart of stone you could not fail to find much here of lasting worth. The low price is absolutely no reflection of the quality. Do give this a listen.
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on 1 March 2014
I bought this disc mainly for the cello concerto, but once I had listened to the Eclogue I have been unable to stop playing it. I listen to it twice a day during my cycle to work, and many other times during the day. It is simply one of the most exquisite and moving pieces of music I've ever heard, one I never tire of listening to. The best moment of my working day is when I switch on my iPod as I leave the office to cycle home; on hearing those first few gentle notes on the piano, all the stresses of the day vanish and quiet contentment takes their place. Thank you, Gerald Finzi, for this wonderful musical balm.
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on 3 September 2010
Finzi's Cello Concerto is considered by some to be his masterpiece. It is certainly his most large scale orchestral work and carries more expressive weight than the Clarinet Concerto. Written in the shadow of terminal illness it is, however, not a despairing work but more a work of gentle melancholy with a somewhat half hearted positive finale. Tim Hugh certainly doesn't let the work down.

It does, like the Clarinet Concerto sound a little too much like background accompaniement with a lack of any memorable melodic material. There is a pleasantly, pastoral elegaic harmonic background but there still isn't enough strong material forcing its way beyond the background.

The Toccata, Fantasia and Eclogue steal the show in part due to their disparateness. They were all intended to be part of a full piano concerto but were clearly not mean't to constitute its whole or maybe even be part of the same work. this allows for more contrast, therefore with the eclogue introducing some element of Bachian neo classicism for piano and strings followed by the lyricism of the fantasia and then the surprisingly full bodied toccata acting as a finale. Here the full orchestra enters and this music sounds close to Walton in its drive.

Peter Donohoe certainly makes the most of this and this more upbeat conclusion to the disc makes for a very satisfying whole.
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VINE VOICEon 10 July 2006
Finzi's Cello Concerto and the concertante works on this disc show another side to a composer best know for his string works, miniatures, choral writing and songs. This is not to forget the sublime clarinet concerto, but these works are somewhat more rugged.

The cello concerto was Finzi's last completed work, and the last one he heard (in radio broadcast)on his hospital bed as lay dying of cancer.The work was completed in adversity and hence is less concerned with the pastoral idyll and more with the struggle of life over death.

To do this work justice you therefore have to put aside the preconceived view of Finzi as the pastoralist and come up with a grittier sound, especially in the declamatory and anguished first movement. Unfortunately the playing on this disc does not come up to that level- technically it's fine, but the fire is missing. The finest performance of the piece- a young Yo Yo Ma with the RPO under Handley- doesn't appear to have had a CD release: here the anguish and fire are readily apparent.

The recording on this Naxos disc also recesses the soloist into the orchestral ensemble, which again doesn't help matters: Tim Hugh is a fine cellist, but he doesn't come across with the requisite distinction here.

The other pieces on the CD form most of an unfinished piano concerto, though they survive as unique works: The Eclogue for Piano and Strings (a slow movement without a concerto)has deceptively complicated solo writing which lifts the 'cow looking over a gate' pastoralism into something much more enigmatic, and it receives an ideal performance here. The recording balance is spot on. Memorable and seductive melodic content presented in a simple-but not simplistic- context.

Similarly, Peter Donohoe shines in the virtuosic opening section of the Grand Fantasia and Toccata where the solo piano line is sustained for several minutes before the entry of the full orchestra: There are hints here of Finzi's fascination with earlier musical forms. This is deeply satisfying music.

The Northern Sinfonia under Howard Griffiths provide intense and idiomatic accompaniment.

So: Thumbs down for the Cello Concerto, a resounding thumbs up for the remainder of the programme.
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on 12 August 2017
Just what I thought it was...excellent.
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on 26 June 2015
A most unjustly neglected composer at his best here,one of the finest recordings I have listened to this year.
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on 30 July 2013
The Eclogue is to be played at my funeral. Finzi lived near to my ancestral home in Hampshire, East Woodhay.
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on 8 September 2016
Delivered as promised. thank you.
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