A Young Man’s Exhortation
, is a cycle, but has no narrative—unlike Die schöne Müllerin
. The thread is an emotional one, linking the young idealist as he matures to his gentle end under the yellowing trees. Over the first five songs Finzi set the quotation in Latin, ‘In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up’ (but even by song 4 the singer is imagining his own past obscurity) and over part II ‘In the evening it is cut down, and withereth’. The first song begins lyrically, with imitation in the piano part, as if all set for a closed form; but it slackens into quasi-recitative for the questioning fourth verse; has a Holstian march bass at the mention of passing time, and ends (having started in A flat) on a surprising chord of E major—all characteristic Finzi procedures. The second song, apparently artless, is subtle in the way Finzi plays stress against metre to point up the words. ‘Budmouth Dears’ is deliberately more hearty, for contrast. ‘The Comet at Yell’ham’ is remote and still: poet and composer set our little human life in perspective, but without sitting in judgement. In ‘Former Beauties’ a vision, held in the memory, is re-lived. All five songs have their counterpart—in sentiment and form—in the later sets. The first complete public performance of A Young Man’s Exhortation
was given on 5 December 1933 by Frank Drew and Augustus Lowe.
from notes by Diana McVeagh © 1989
Diana McVeagh’s Gerald Finzi: His Life and Music is published by Boydell & Brewer, Woodbridge