Gerald Finzi: Intimations of Immortality/For St Cecelia
John Gilchrist, Tenor Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Orchestra cond. David Hill
Naxos 8.557863 www.naxos.com
If you have not encountered Finzi's Intimations before, then you're in for a rare treat when you hear this.
Based on Wordsworth's Ode 'Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood' it is a genuinely heart-rending example of the unsurpassable pathos which exists in many pieces of 20th Century English Music. I have been a fan of Finzi, Howells, Vaughan Williams etc for some 20 years now since being herded into this delightful flowering summer meadow by my good friend 'Harold' and I still fail to be unmoved on hearing such delights as 'Intimations', VW's 'The Lark Ascending' and Elgar's 'Nimrod'. Of course, televisual images created by the likes of Ken Russel have helped permanently cement the landscapes of interwar England into one's visual cortex and conjure idyllic images of a, no doubt, largely fictional Golden Age we would all love to inhabit. Oops - I'm rambling..
'For St Cecilia' is quite a different sort of offering than 'Intimations', starting in a somewhat anthemic style and dramatic in a very different way. It settles back into a more poetic mode but never attains the gut-wrenching emotional levels of the former work. I question whether pairing the 2 pieces on the same disc is a such good idea. Although I'm normally all for maximising the available space and thus helping the pocket of the record buyer, on this occasion, I think 'Intimations' (given its approximate 40 minute length) is sublime enough to warrant issue on its own - just this once. It's the type of music that one needs a little time to recover from when it's finished.
Apart from this, as usual with Naxos, this disc, in my view, is faultless and will provide you with as good a version of the masterpiece as you're likely to find.If you only buy one clasical record this year, I beg of you, let it be this one!