It is Gerald Finzi's songs that get most of the ink (or bytes) these days, but many performers and listeners came to this composer through his choral music. Finzi's choral works often appear singly on albums devoted to British choral music of the middle 20th century, but conductor Stephen Layton and the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, make a strong case for his choral music as a cohesive and significant body of work. Much of the program is sacred, and Finzi is exhibit A for the idea that you don't have to be Christian to write great Christian music (he was an agnostic Jew). The album has a sturdy, sacred architecture, with the Magnificat and the anthem Lo, the full and final sacrifice as outer walls, and God is gone up (showing that Finzi could do the big organ-and-brass anthem as well as anyone else) and a Nunc dimittis by Finzi follower David Bednall as inner pillars. The second half of the program includes secular pieces close in language to Finzi's art songs, including an early group of settings of poems by Robert Bridges and the delicate White-flowering days (sample this), to a poem by Edmund Charles Blunden. It all hangs together beautifully, almost mystically. While Layton always delivers consistent results with this choir, the performances here are outstanding. A must for lovers of choral music of any kind.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Anthems (3) for chorus & organ, Op 27|
|Seven poems of Robert Bridges Op. 17|