FINZI Clarinet Concerto

The number of Finzi’s purely instrumental works is small even though he took great pains over them in the early part of his career. He began what is believed to have been intended as a piano concerto. This was never finished or given a title, but after his death his publisher gave two of the individual movements names and published them as the separate works Eclogue and Grand Fantasia and Toccata. The latter demonstrates Finzi’s admiration for Johann Sebastian Bach as well as the Swiss American composer Ernest Bloch. He also completed a violin concerto which was performed in London under the baton of Vaughan Williams, but was not satisfied with it and withdrew the two outer movements; the surviving middle movement is called Introit. This concerto thus received only its second performance in 1999 and its first recording is now on Chandos. Finzi's Clarinet Concerto and his Cello Concerto are possibly his most famous and frequently-performed instrumental works. Of Finzi's few chamber works, only the Five Bagatelles for clarinet and piano have survived in the regular repertoire. Finzi had a long friendship with the composer Howard Ferguson who, as well as offering advice on his works during his life, helped with the editing of several of Finzi's posthumous works. NAXOS NOTES: Finzi's Clarinet Concerto was completed in 1949 in response to a commission from the Three Choirs Festival, that year to be held in Hereford Cathedral, where it was performed with Frederick Thurston as the soloist and the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra under the composer's direction. The first movement opens with a strong statement from the strings, leading to an Elgarian sequence, A stridently repeated octave figure precedes the solo entry with the principal theme of the movement. The soloist leads to the second subject with a two octave downward leap, before the lyrical theme proper is heard. There is a relatively short development section and a recapitulation that is followed by a more extended coda, an undemanding cadenza, inserted at the suggestion of Vaughan Williams, and a maestoso conclusion, the whole in a finely connected, thoroughly English rhapsodic style. Muted strings open the slow movement, before the entry of the soloist. The orchestra then introduces the modal principal theme of the movement. allowing the clarinet to offer its own rhapsodic comment. The music moves forward to a dramatic dynamic climax, the mood of the opening finally restored, as the sound dies away. The final Rondo opens forcefully, leading to the cheerful principal theme from the clarinet, which frames extended episodes, with their reminiscences of motifs from the first movement.


 VIDEO: GERALD FINZI Clarinet Concerto, Op.31 Robert Plane, clarinet Northern Sinfonia Howard Griffiths 

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