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English Song Series 16 - Finzi: A Young Man's Exhortation / Ainsley, Burnside


Release Date: 06/26/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570414   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Iain BurnsideJohn Mark Ainsley
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

For lovers of English song, this is an indispensable disc, especially with this thoughtfully compiled programme.

This is a very thoughtful recital of Finzi songs. A Young Man’s Exhortation is that rare thing in Finzi’s output – a series of songs actually conceived from the outset as a cycle. What makes this collection so attractive in programme terms is the inclusion of two other collections which include songs possibly originally intended for A Young Man’s Exhortation. This cycle has fared well on CD. Both Martyn Hill and James Gilchrist have recorded the complete set quite beautifully. This music is very much ‘English tenor’ territory and John Mark Ainsley is among the very finest of the breed. His voice is lucid,
Read more diction always beautifully clear and the musicality and phrasing is faultless. This makes a wonderful companion to the two Finzi discs recorded by baritone Roderick Williams – both also with Iain Burnside – which represent volumes 12 and 15 of Naxos’s excellent English Song Series.

Finzi was a huge admirer of Thomas Hardy and set his words more than those of any other writer, beginning in 1921 with By Footpath and Stile and also including Before and After Summer, I Said to Love, Earth and Air and Rain and Till Earth Outwears – the last included here. A Young Man’s Exhortation is a relatively early collection. Its ten songs are all beautifully crafted, with great care being taken over the setting of the words for which Finzi felt such an affinity. The music is still early enough in Finzi’s output to show the influence of Holst and Vaughan Williams but there are some remarkable touches which are pure Finzi, such as the lush musical language of Her Temple and the spare textures and eerie harmonies in The Comet at Yell’ham.

Finzi was a notoriously slow composer and many works occupied him for a considerable number of years. The songs that formed his sets as he called them were collated over many years, slowly being grouped into suitable combinations. At the time of his death more than twenty songs remained unallocated to any groupings. Finzi's widow, son Christopher and composer Howard Ferguson divided these into four groups. Till Earth Outwears brings together seven Thomas Hardy tenor settings. One of the earliest of these is At a Lunar Eclipse, which was probably one of those originally intended for inclusion in A Young Man’s Exhortation. Two of the songs are very late pieces. Life laughs onwards dates from March 1955 and is tinged with regret, doubtless due to Finzi’s knowledge of his terminal illness. It never looks like summer here is from February 1956 and so ranks among Finzi’s very last works.

The seven songs of Oh Fair to See bring together settings of words by a variety of poets, including one more by Hardy. Again, they represent many years from Finzi’s composing career, including another possible contender for inclusion in A Young Man’s Exhortation – I say ‘I’ll seek her side’.

The recording was made in the Finzi anniversary year 2006 exactly fifty years and three months after Finzi’s death. I found the balance of Ainsley’s voice and Burnside’s piano quite perfect, with enough bloom around the sound to present these lovely songs at their very best. The excellent and informative booklet notes are by possibly the Finzi expert of our times, Andrew Burn and a full set of texts for the songs is provided. For any lovers of English song, this is an indispensable disc, especially with this thoughtfully compiled programme.

-- Derek Warby, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Iain Burnside (Piano), John Mark Ainsley (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926-1929; England 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England 
Length: 29 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England (11/27/2006 - 11/28/2006) 
2. Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  John Mark Ainsley (Tenor), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927-1956; England 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England 
Length: 17 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England (11/27/2006 - 11/28/2006) 
3. Oh fair to see, Op. 13 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Iain Burnside (Piano), John Mark Ainsley (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; England 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England 
Length: 17 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England (11/27/2006 - 11/28/2006) 

Sound Samples

A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 1. A Young Man's Exhortation
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 2. Ditty
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 3. Budmouth Dears
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 4. Her Temple
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 5. The Comet at Yell'ham
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 6. Shortening Days
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 7. The Sigh
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 8. Former Beauties
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 9. Transformations
A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14: No. 10. The dance continued
Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19: No. 1. Let me enjoy the earth
Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19: No. 2. In years defaced
Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19: No. 3. The Market Girl
Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19: No. 4. I look into my glass
Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19: No. 5. It never looks like summer here
Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19: No. 6. At a Lunar Eclipse
Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19: No. 7. Life laughs onwards
Oh Fair to See, Op. 13: No. 1. I say 'I'll seek her side'
Oh Fair to See, Op. 13: No. 2. Oh fair to see
Oh Fair to See, Op. 13: No. 3. As I lay in the early sun
Oh Fair to See, Op. 13: No. 4. Only the wanderer
Oh Fair to See, Op. 13: No. 5. To Joy
Oh Fair to See, Op. 13: No. 6. Harvest
Oh Fair to See, Op. 13: No. 7. Since we loved

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Lyrical revelation June 23, 2012 By Reni Kistel (Van Nuys, CA) See All My Reviews "It was admittedly difficult for me to come to a new performance of the Hardy settings after growing up with the classic double-disk Hyperion recording (Martyn Hill, Stephen Varcoe) containing two of the three cycles presented in the Naxos version. Yet I quickly saw -- or rather, heard -- that Ainsley has taken possession of these songs with every bit as much authority as his predecessors.

For those of you -- like me -- who became Finzi fanatics after hearing the first recordings of Dies Natalis, and then moved on through the song cycles on Hyperion and whatever else was available in those early years, have no fear. This Naxos recording gives fresh insights into Finzi's lyric gifts without supplanting earlier versions. The great advantage of this anthology is the addition of "Oh Fair to See" to the corpus of Finzi songs.

And for those of you who are just having a first encounter with this still under-appreciated composer, Ainsley's readings are the perfect introduction to Finzi, one of the most unearthly -- in the best sense -- of English lyric voices. Highly recommended in every respect.
"
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