A broad and meticulous selection of orchestral works and concertos by Gerald Finzi is here matched by a first-class cast of soloists, supported by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Sir Andrew Davis, expert in British repertoire and conducting this year’s Last Night of the Proms. Paul Watkins displays exhilarating virtuosity in the Cello Concerto, a central work on this album, composed in the wake of the devastating news that Finzi was terminally ill, but yet filled with ‘vigorous, almost turbulent thematic material’, as he wrote in the programme note for the work’s premiere at the Cheltenham Music Festival in 1955. Louis Lortie, for his part, tackles the high-spirited and majestic Grand Fantasia and Toccata, the FantasiaRead more originally conceived as part of a concerto for piano and strings and first performed on two pianos. This contrasts with the more restrained Eclogue for Piano and Strings, timeless, and blessed with a mood of benediction. This album also features the orchestral Nocturne (subtitled ‘New Year Music’), dark, misty, and at times ironic.
Sir Andrew Davis’s feeling for the composer’s sensitive, harmonically conservative language is abundantly clear in these vivid readings with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Soloists too are well chosen. Cellist Paul Watkins proves a master of expressing powerful feelings through the prism of British reserve. Admirers of Finzi’s music can buy without hesitation.
Fine British concertos from a great teamOctober 16, 2018By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"When Raphael Wallfisch called the Finzi Cello Concerto the greatest British cello concerto, it caught my interest, as I'm sure it did many others'. Beating out the Elgar Concerto would be like coming ahead of Leonardo, or Michael Jordan, or Greta Garbo. As I said in my review of his recording, Wallfisch makes a good argument, but I was "still inclined to consider his claim just a trifle hyperbolic." In the two years since then I haven't heard anything to change my mind, though I imagine I've listened to the Elgar Concerto at least three or four times as often as the Finzi (including Wallfisch himself beautifully playing the Elgar live right in my home town, with the Victoria Symphony). This is, of course, a silly discussion, but no less fun for being silly. The Finzi Concerto is a very fine work, and together with the Moeran, Bliss, Bax and Elgar concertos, the British Cello Team is clearly the best national side, and perhaps even a match for Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. But seriously, it's always great to see an undervalued work gain some traction, and this fine new performance by Paul Watkins and the BBC Symphony under Sir Andrew Davis makes it clear what all this fuss is about. This is rather different from Wallfisch's version, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, under Vernon Handley. It's very dramatic, and in the outer movements more often brisk than pastoral. In the great slow movement Watkins and Davis keep things at a lower temperature to start, compared with the passionate Wallfisch/Handley version, which might just slip over into sentimentality at times. And as Wallfisch wears his heart a bit on his sleeve throughout, I don't know if he gets the full effect of the climax near the end, or of the terribly sad coda. This new recording seems just perfectly judged, and even more convincing in the end. The fine Canadian pianist Louis Lortie has his turn to shine in two works. Eclogue, for piano and orchestra, is a perfect example of English pastoral music at its best; rhapsodic and stirring, with those great Gainsborough clouds and green fields rolling down into the mist, and short enough at under ten minutes to partake of the special English genius for the miniature. Every note by Lortie is perfectly placed; this is as English as music can be. There's much more happening in the Grand Fantasia and Toccata, including some virtuoso passages, handled with aplomb by Lortie, but it never coheres into anything close to the quality of the two works we've discussed so far. I've been listening to a lot of occasional music for orchestra lately, including two recent discs of music for the Leonard Bernstein Centennial that were filled with almost nothing but. I keep hoping to hear something great that began as something minor, planning on referring to the title of a work G. K. Chesterton wrote in 1909, "Tremendous Trifles". I thought Finzi's New Year Music might be just that, because it's undoubtably another great miniature, perhaps even at the same level as the Eclogue. But it turns out that's because Finzi planned it as something special, and carefully re-crafted it over the decades after his first version in 1926. So it's "tremendous", all right, just not a "trifle". Andrew Davis and his marvellous players provide the most sensitive and lovely sound for this piece; it's a luscious treat."Report Abuse