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Track(s) taken from CDD22027

Five Bagatelles, Op 23


Dame Thea King (clarinet), Clifford Benson (piano)
Recording details: February 1989
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Alun Francis
Engineered by Bob Auger & Stuart Smith
Release date: January 1989
Total duration: 13 minutes 47 seconds


'This set should be on the shelf of every teacher and serious student of the clarinet' (American Record Guide)
Gerald Finzi (born London, 1901; died Oxford, 1956) studied privately with Ernest Bristow Farrar, Edward Bairstow and R O Morris. He is perhaps best known for his vocal works, which include a large-scale setting of Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality, the exquisite Dies Natalis for voice and strings to words by Thomas Traherne, and over forty songs on poems by Thomas Hardy, which whom he had a special affinity. Apart from the Clarinet Concerto and Bagatelles, some of his more important instrumental works are the orchestral New Year Music, The Fall of the Leaf, and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata with solo piano.

As so often with Finzi, the Five Bagatelles were written over a considerable number of years. They were completed during World War II, in free moments snatched from his work at the Ministry of War Transport, and first performed by Pauline Juler and Howard Ferguson at one of the wartime National Gallery concerts. The opening Prelude and final Fughetta are brilliant, extrovert pieces in similar vein to the corresponding movements of the Concerto. The Forlana is in a gently lilting 6/8 rhythm, interrupted only once by a more agitated moment. (The unusual title was used also by Bach in his Orchestral Suite in C, and by Ravel in the suite Le Tombeau de Couperin. It is defined in the dictionaries as ‘an Italian dance popular with Venetian gondoliers’.) The two remaining movements, the Romance and the Carol, are probably the earliest, and certainly the most typical of Finzi’s favourite mood of quiet contem­plation. The reflective beginning and end of the Romance are contrasted with a warmly lyrical central section; while the Carol reminds one of his lovely Christmas Scene In Terra Pax, in which the Gospel account of the Angel appearing to the Shepherds is framed by Robert Bridges’ poem describing a frosty Christmas Eve.

from notes by Howard Ferguson and Robert Matthew-Walker © 1997

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