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Finzi: Love's Labour's Lost, Let Us Garlands Bring

Release Date: 09/04/2007 
Label:  Lyrita   Catalog #: 237   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Ian PartridgeJane ManningJohn NobleJohn Carol Case
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic OrchestraJohn Alldis ChoirNew Philharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FINZI Love’s Labour’s Lost. 1 Let Us Garlands Bring. 2 Two Milton Sonnets. 3 Farewell to Arms. 4 In Terra Pax 5 Vernon Handley, cond; John Carol Case (bar); 2 Ian Partridge (ten); 3,4 Jane Manning (sop); Read more class="SUPER12">5 John Noble (bar); 5 John Alldis Ch; 5 New Philharmonia O; Royal PO 1 LYRITA 237 (77:38)

Another welcome Lyrita reissue; the vocal works recorded in 1979. To deal with these first: Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring, dedicated to Vaughan Williams, comprises five Shakespearean songs composed between 1929 and 1942. This recording features the string orchestra version with John Carol Case who by this time was in the evening of his career. The baritone’s voice might occasionally be wavering, especially in the slower-paced songs, but what perception and imagination he brings to them. In Finzi’s masterpiece, “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,” for instance, how vividly he breathes dread, especially into the word “witchcraft” at the last verse’s lines: “no witchcraft charm thee! Ghost unlaid forbear thee.” In contrast, his “O mistress mine” trips and bounces merrily along, his “What’s to come is still unsure” so full of whispered promise. In Finzi’s setting for voice and piano of this work, Bryn Terfel accompanied by Malcolm Martineau on Decca and Roderick Williams with Iain Burnside on Naxos all impress strongly.

Ian Partridge’s poise and eloquence distinguishes the Two Milton Sonnets (1928). How movingly, for instance, he sings, the last lines of “When I Consider”: “They also serve who only stand and wait”; and how completely he empathizes with the sentiments of “How soon hath Time”—thoughts of the swift passage of youth and life’s transience. Likewise, in the lovely “Aria,” the second Finzi’s two Farewell to Arms songs from 1926–28, how tenderly he muses on time’s ravages upon the aging soldier. Finzi’s sublime Christmas work, In Terra Pax , deserves better recognition and more performances. The full orchestral version, here, was first performed in 1956, shortly before the composer’s untimely death. It juxtapositions Robert Bridge’s verses, sung by John Noble, with those of St Luke’s nativity story of the shepherds in the fields. Noble, awed by the frosty beauty of a winter night, and emotions stirred, turns his thoughts to “the first Christmas of all.” Some might prefer Libby Crabtree’s angel on Decca to Jane Manning. Crabtree’s voice, more suitably perhaps, approximates in pitch and timbre the purity of a boy soprano. The Decca version, conducted by David Hill, also has the strongly competing bass, Donald Sweeney. As in every other work on this album, Handley empathizes perfectly with Finzi’s idiom.

In 1946, Finzi wrote incidental music for 16 players—subsequently turned into this Suite—for a BBC Radio production of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost . The “Three Soliloquies” are best known and have been recorded separately; notably Howard Griffiths’s meltingly beautiful reading on a 1995 Naxos CD. Except for one alternative, Handley’s reading appears to be the only one available of the whole suite. Handley’s “Soliloquies” are no less affecting and express even better the plights of Shakespeare’s lovelorn characters. This beautiful Suite also includes noble and gracious music that lingers in the memory for the two royal groups, romantic and rustic dances, hunt music, a tenderly sighing “Nocturne,” and comic interludes. The Nimbus alternative, conducted by William Boughton, is attractive too; and it has other Finzi orchestral works, including Alan Hacker’s outstanding reading of Clarinet Concerto.

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Works on This Recording

Let us garlands bring, Op. 18 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Ian Partridge (Tenor), Jane Manning (Soprano), John Noble (Baritone),
John Carol Case (Baritone)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  John Alldis Choir,  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Notes: Composition written: England (1929 - 1942). 
Sonnets (2), Op. 12 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Ian Partridge (Tenor)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1928; England 
Farewell to Arms, Op. 9 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Ian Partridge (Tenor)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Et in Terra Pax, Op. 39 by Gerald Finzi
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Love's Labours Lost, Op. 28: Suite by Gerald Finzi
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946-1955; England 

Featured Sound Samples

Love's Labour's Lost: I. Introduction

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