Gerald Finzi, and important and prolific English composer in the first half of the twentieth century, had a life unduly filled with loss. Although he only lived 55 years, he survived through the death of many family members and close friends. By 1951 -- five years before his own death -- he was diagnosed with a form of leukemia and knew that it was only a matter of time. Many of Finzi's works clearly reflect the hardships he endured through melancholy, reflective moods. But a surprising number of his compositions are rather optimistic and filled with grandeur. This Naxos album, entitled The Best of Gerald Finzi, attempts to bring together highlights showcasing both sides of personality. The performances throughout are generally quite solid, with highest marks going to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (performing the lone movement of Finzi's magnificent Intimations of Immortality). Slightly less satisfying are the performances of the Northern Sinfonia (heard primarily an accompanimental fashion in the clarinet and cello concertos), which are not always as refined and precise as the soloists they are accompanying. Listeners who are already fans of Finzi will want to skip the album and buy the recordings of complete works from which these excerpts were drawn; those unfamiliar with Finzi's works, however, will enjoy this thorough introduction to his extensive output.
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