Feste’s second song in Twelfth Night, Come away, come away death, is a powerful lament where Finzi’s attention to salient words—the falling seventh to ‘death’, and the tantalizingly protracted melisma on ‘weep’ are but two fine examples—is exemplary, as is the freedom of the phraseology. There is also a lugubrious intensity in Finzi’s choice deployment of ‘jarring’ dissonance which is skilfully integrated with melodious, yet at times angular vocal lines. Who is Silvia?, from Two Gentlemen of Verona, is a charming ditty in ternary form. For the first three lines of each verse Finzi opts for transparent simplicity in his use of periodic (two-bar) phrases, but in the last two lines (which are effectively fused) this regularity is deftly subverted. Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, from Cymbeline, a meditation on the passing of time, on growing old and the dissipation of life’s fears in death, the great leveller, inspired Finzi to one of his most profound creations. The song, a sophisticated and controlled essay in sustained vocal writing, using the simplest of rhythmic and harmonic means, has a pathos (notably in the final, ethereal stanza) which rivals Dies natalis and the best of his Hardy songs. The remaining two songs of the collection, O Mistress Mine (Twelfth Night) and It was a lover and his lass (As you like it) provide lighter relief. The ‘troubadourish’ (to use Finzi’s own description) O Mistress Mine has a poise made all the more enchanting by the distinctive ‘thrummed’ guitar-like accompaniment and two-part quasi-Baroque dialogue of the upper strings (derived from the same texture in ‘The Rapture’ of Dies natalis). It was a lover and his lass is characterized by a syncopated accompaniment pattern (so much beloved of the composer) which lends the song an invigorating sense of well-being and happiness. Only briefly does a grey cloud appear in the third verse, when, for a moment only, there is a sense of regret (‘How that life was but a flower in springtime’). But this is soon dispelled by the jubilation of the last verse replete with ecstatic coda.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 1999
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