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Let us garlands bring, Op 18

author of text
Twelfth night (No 1 & 4); Two Gentlemen of Verona (No 2); Cymbeline (No 3); As You Like It (No 5)

Finzi’s, Let us garlands bring, Op 18, comprises settings of five Shakespearean songs and bears the inscription ‘For Ralph Vaughan Williams on his birthday Oct. 12th 1942’. Performed first in the version for baritone and piano by Robert Irwin and Howard Ferguson on that day at a National Gallery lunchtime concert, the collection’s string arrangement followed in quick succession on 18 October, again with Irwin and the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Clarence Raybould. Most of the songs were recent creations, composed between 1938 and 1942, but the emotional centre of the collection, Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, was written in 1929.

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


English Orchestral Songs
CDA67065Archive Service
Vaughan Williams, Finzi & Quilter: Whither must I wander? & other songs
Studio Master: SIGCD314Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


No 1: Come away, death
Track 14 on CDA67065 [3'38] Archive Service
Track 13 on SIGCD314 [4'08] Download only
No 2: Who is Silvia?
Track 15 on CDA67065 [1'43] Archive Service
Track 14 on SIGCD314 [1'28] Download only
No 3: Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Track 16 on CDA67065 [6'24] Archive Service
Track 15 on SIGCD314 [6'24] Download only
No 4: O mistress mine
Track 17 on CDA67065 [2'00] Archive Service
Track 16 on SIGCD314 [2'09] Download only
No 5: It was a lover and his lass
Track 18 on CDA67065 [2'54] Archive Service
Track 17 on SIGCD314 [2'47] Download only

Track-specific metadata for CDA67065 track 15

Who is Silvia?
Recording date
8 August 1998
Recording venue
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. English Orchestral Songs (CDA67065)
    Disc 1 Track 15
    Release date: March 1999
    Deletion date: May 2012
    Archive Service
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