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CD Review

Gerald Finzi

Works for Clarinet

  • Clarinet Concerto
  • Five Bagatelles (arr. for clarinet and strings by Lawrence Ashmore)
  • Three Soliloquies from "Love's Labors Lost"
  • A Severn Rhapsody
  • Romance
  • Introit
Robert Plane, clarinet
Northern Sinfonia/Howard Griffiths
Naxos 8.553566
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This is, quite simply, one of the most delightful discs I have had the pleasure of listening to since I began this task of reporting. Finzi's music can perhaps best be described as similar to what you hear in Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending". Now, it may be that Finzi was more a story teller than a composer of novels, but I happened to pen:

How many songs
Are in your soul?
Some more,
Some less,
The song is sweet…

I am not claiming that this is great poetry, only that for some reason these words came to me as I listened to this disc. I am not sure any longer how many listenings I had sat through because I have listened to it so many times since it arrived. Robert Plane's clarinet sound brought to mind what Stoltzman used to produce and sometimes still does. It is rich and deep and sweet. The music is delightful. At moments it will entertain, but it is never merely entertaining. I sat a long time trying to find the right word to describe my feelings when I heard Soliloquy One, "The King's Poem" (Track 9). It is some of the most touching music I've ever heard. It evokes scenes from a time long gone. The sound on the disc is first class, the playing superb… what else can I say? I can tell you that this evening I had the disc on, but the music was kind-of in the background as I chatted with Susan and watched the twins eat their bedtime snack. Anyway, I walked back into the living room and was stopped by the solo violin (Lesley Hatfield) on track 14, "Introit". I stood there and muttered an expletive and shook my head. My God, how beautiful. This disc will provide hours of wonderful music that will repay repeated listening… and you will listen.

Oh, yeah. I love the cover art on the Naxos discs. Whoever is in charge seems to be able to find a classic picture that does give a visual picture of the music inside. This is true not only of this disc, but many others in the Naxos line as well. Just thought I'd mention that.

Post Script: Tonight I listened to this music yet again. At moments I found I had a lump in my throat. Last night, after having listened and written much of this review, I found myself remembering moistening a reed to play on a sax. It was a tactile sensation, the reed had a taste. This music evokes that memory.

Copyright © 1999, Robert Stumpf II