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Songs By Finzi And His Friends / Ian Partridge, Et Al


Release Date: 06/10/2003 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55084   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gerald FinziRobin MilfordErnest FarrarIvor Gurney,   ... 
Performer:  Ian PartridgeClifford BensonStephen Roberts
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 51 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

As its playing time suggests this is a direct crib from a sequence first issued on LP. By 1981, when these sessions took place, the Finzi revival was well under weigh. The Clarinet Concerto was being played everywhere and after a sleepy start the Lyrita LPs were beginning to sell healthily.

The voice of Ian Partridge and the songs of Gerald Finzi were made for each other. In some ways he was the successor to Eric Greene (who had premiered Intimations) and Wilfred Brown. His astonishing breath control, distinctive white vibrato-less tone, feeling for the English language and communicative intelligence made him a natural Castor to Finzi's Pollux. Thank God we have him in the Lyrita LP of Intimations of Immortality (his singing
Read more of the Wordsworth words 'The moon doth with delight ...' is one of the pinnacles of musical art). I continue to search for the grail of a recording (any recording!) of Partridge in Dies Natalis.

The equivalent Hyperion LP was launched at the 1981 Finzi Weekend organised by Kerry Tombs. I remember Partridge signing copies. They sold like hot cakes from stacks unloaded by Ted Perry from the back of his car. My autographed copy is somewhere in a box under the stairs.

Ian Partridge broadcast extensively on the BBC. His voice together with that of Robert Tear (very nasal by comparison) and the sadly under-rated Gerald English along with that of baritone John Carol Case (whose later decay into vibrato was all the more distressing because of his earlier excellence) was the hallmark of the resurgent interest in British song. I do not forget that he also kept a foot in the early music camps as well - notably when singing with Pro Cantione Antiqua.

The two Finzi sets featured here were artfully assembled and ordered by Howard Ferguson whose faithful pianism distinguished the two Lyrita Finzi song set/cycle LPs on 1969-71.

Stephen Roberts is imposing with a voice grainy and darkly inclined. It is well suited to the Flecker setting To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence. He colours it in amber and jet for the de la Mare song The Birthright. June on Castle Hill is masterly Finzi with its drama ('white flags far unfurled') and its comforting ('Earth sleeps in peace') seeming either an echo of or a sketch for Channel Firing. Similarly powerful, alternating grim and troubadour style, is the Ode on Rejection of St Cecilia.

Roberts' superbly catches that mesmerising world between sleep and waking for Gurney's Sleep and the delicious regret of Down by the Salley Gardens. Gurney threw caution to the winds for the triumphant optimism and carousing swing of Hawk and Buckle. The words are by John Doyle - a pseudonym for Robert Graves the author of the Claudius and Count Belisarius novels as well as a vivid memoir of World War I in 'Goodbye To All That'.

Partridge takes the three Milfords. If it's ever spring again (Hardy) is a quickish love song pent with an uncertainty that spring and summer may never return … or that the singer will never see them. Deliciously simple is The Colours - another Hardy with a downbeat sting in its tail. This is Milford centenary year (2003) so we must hope for more recordings especially of the Violin Concerto, Prophet in the Land and The Darkling Thrush for violin and small orchestra. Ernest Farrar was killed in the Great War. His rumba style O mistress mine goes with a fine swing. The Harry Gill song sits well in this company with its understated sorrow at the loss of comrades. Where are the aching loss-filled songs of German composers. Surely they were written. Why do we not hear about them?

Oh Fair to See is a truly wonderful cycle. It has been part of my life since the 1970s BBC broadcast back in 1972 or 1973. It is masterly in its grouping and assembly (the work of Howard Ferguson) as well as in its individual word setting. Perfection is not too strong a word. We start with I say I'll seek her side - part scena; part lovelorn - well it is Hardy! Oh fair to see has about it no tragic ambivalence. This is evidently the same Cherry Tree viewed by Housman but decked in contentment not laced with knowledge of fallen blossom and winter. Time after time Finzi slips his emotional scalpel tenderly through our callous defences. Whether it is in Edmund Blunden's heart-achingly searching To Joy (the death of his baby), the brief Gurney setting of Severn Meadows (the hush just before 'Do not forget me quite' not quite as magically caught as in Partridge's 1970s BBC broadcast) or the rapturous Harvest (an ambitious and unflinching biographical traversal) icy tragedy (the same scorched cruel skies as in To a Poet!) meets pastoral ecstasy. Ferguson chose well when he made Robert Bridges' Since We Loved the last song - a song to Finzi’s wife, Joy. Its contented reflection echoes that of the Edward Shanks song As I lay in the early sun. Finzi's works have indeed 'prosper'd well'!

If you do not already have this and you are a proponent of British song then lose no time in snapping it up. Already discovered the main Hardy cycles? An enthusiast of the songs of Michael Head, Warlock, C.W. Orr and Vaughan Williams? This collection, complete with its well set back analogue hiss, is an essential addition to your collection.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Oh fair to see, Op. 13 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Ian Partridge (Tenor), Clifford Benson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; England 
Language: English 
2.
To a Poet, Op. 13a by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Clifford Benson (Piano), Stephen Roberts (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Language: English 
3.
So sweet love seemed by Robin Milford
Performer:  Clifford Benson (Piano), Ian Partridge (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Language: English 
4.
If it's ever spring again by Robin Milford
Performer:  Clifford Benson (Piano), Ian Partridge (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
Language: English 
5.
The Color by Robin Milford
Performer:  Clifford Benson (Piano), Ian Partridge (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
Language: English 
6.
O mistress mine! by Ernest Farrar
Performer:  Clifford Benson (Piano), Ian Partridge (Tenor)
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Language: English 
7.
Down by the Salley Gardens by Ivor Gurney
Performer:  Stephen Roberts (Baritone), Clifford Benson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; England 
Language: English 
8.
Elizabethan Songs (5): Sleep by Ivor Gurney
Performer:  Stephen Roberts (Baritone), Clifford Benson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; England 
Language: English 
9.
Hawk and Buckle by Ivor Gurney
Performer:  Clifford Benson (Piano), Stephen Roberts (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; England 
Language: English 
10.
In Memoriam by Harry Gill
Performer:  Clifford Benson (Piano), Stephen Roberts (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Language: English 

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