Gerald Raphael Finzi (14 July 1901 – 27 September 1956) was a British composer. Finzi is best-known as a song-writer, but also wrote in other genres. Large-scale compositions by Finzi include the cantata Dies natalis for solo voice and string orchestra, and his two orchestral concertos for cello and clarinet.
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Finzi’s output includes nine song cycles, six of them on the poems of Thomas Hardy. The first of these, By Footpath and Stile (1922), is for voice and string quartet, the others, including A Young Man’s Exhortation and Earth and Air and Rain, for voice and piano. Among his other songs, the charming Shakespeare settings in the cycle Let Us Garlands Bring (1942) are the best known. He also wrote incidental music to Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (1946). For voice and orchestra he composed the above-mentioned Dies natalis, a work profoundly mystic, and the pacifist Farewell to Arms (1944).
Finzi’s choral music includes the popular anthems Lo, the full, final sacrifice and God is gone up as well as unaccompanied partsongs, but he also wrote larger-scale choral works such as For St. Cecilia (text by Edmund Blunden), Intimations of Immortality (William Wordsworth) and the Christmas scene In terra pax (Robert Bridges and the Gospel of Luke), all from the last ten years of his life.
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 Jewish 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. The clarinet concerto is possibly his most famous instrumental work, with its infectious lyricism and charm coupled with a strong emotional core, but the cello concerto is even more dramatic and is perhaps his greatest work – in it Finzi manages to resolve all his compositional issues to produce a work of astounding drama, beauty, nobility and a sense of melancholic nostalgia which is so characteristic of his work.
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 and, as well as offering advice on his works during his life, Ferguson helped with the editing of several of Finzi's works published posthumously.
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