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Lo, the full, final sacrifice, Op 26

1946; STB soli, SATB divisi + organ; festival anthem; commissioned by the Reverend Walter Hussey
author of text
Hymns of St Thomas Aquinas: Adoro Te and Lauda Sion salvatorem

By the end of the Second World War the name of Gerald Finzi had risen in prominence and, by the end of the 1940s, a number of his choral works, including his masterpiece, the solo cantata Dies natalis, had been performed at the Three Choirs Festival and elsewhere. In fact Finzi was initially unaccustomed to the notion of commissions, but after the war these began to proliferate, placing demands on his professional ability to complete works on time. Though not Christian by allegiance, Finzi avidly preferred to identify with all things English rather than with the Jewish-Italian background of his parents, and among these powerfully English elements—which included English literature and poetry together with an admiration for the work of Parry, Vaughan Williams and Ivor Gurney—was the music of the Anglican church, itself a powerful ingredient within the larger embrace of English cultural nationalism. To this he responded with imagination and individual insight.

Lo, the full, final sacrifice was Finzi’s first work to be written directly after the war. Commissioned by the Reverend Walter Hussey (well known for his regular commissions of contemporary church music by Britten, Berkeley, Rubbra and others, and vicar of St Matthew’s, Northampton), Finzi’s ‘festival anthem’ was written after Alan Rawsthorne had, for a second time, let down Hussey over the production of his own commission (Banfield, Gerald Finzi, 327). Finzi’s anthem was therefore written at some appreciable short notice, yet this seemed not to inhibit the quickness of his inspiration. The subject matter, at Hussey’s suggestion, was the Eucharist and Finzi drew on English translations of St Thomas Aquinas’ hymns Adoro te and Lauda Sion salvatorem by the seventeenth-century poet and cleric Richard Crashaw. Deeply mystical in tone, Lo, the full, final sacrifice became a substantial conception, exceeding the normal bounds of a typical anthem in its length and treatment. And to match its richer structural design, Finzi’s matrix of musical transformations was also more complex and subtle. Knitted together to create larger homogeneous paragraphs, the shorter episodes provided illuminatory studies of selected lines from Crashaw’s text, accentuated by the composer’s distinctive ability for English speech rhythm and melodic contour; moreover, Finzi’s harnessing of numerous neo-baroque techniques, together with more modern, quasi-instrumental handling of the voices, served to give the larger structure a magnificent sense of elan and textural variety. Though there is a strong sense of through-composition, Finzi also furnishes the listener with powerful points of reference such as the majestic central climax (‘The sovereign subject sits above’), while the profoundly melancholic recapitulation of the lyrical idea used at ‘O dear Memorial of that Death’ in the form of a duet for tenor and bass (using Crashaw’s wonderfully potent and memorable analogy ‘O soft self-wounding Pelican!’) must surely lie among Finzi’s most enduringly moving choral utterances—along with the sonorous closing eight-part ‘Amen’.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2017


English Choral and Organ Music
CDH55009Archive Service
Finzi, Bax & Ireland: Choral Music
Studio Master: CDA68167Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The English Anthem, Vol. 2
CDA66519Archive Service


Track 5 on CDA68167 [15'15]
Track 8 on CDH55009 [15'30] Archive Service
Track 11 on CDA66519 [16'34] Archive Service

Track-specific metadata for CDA66519 track 11

Recording date
4 July 1991
Recording venue
St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. The English Anthem, Vol. 2 (CDA66519)
    Disc 1 Track 11
    Release date: February 1992
    Deletion date: April 2016
    Archive Service
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