It took some arranging to fill out an album of string quartet music by Gerald Finzi, but not to worry -- this is lovely stuff. The title work, By Footpath and Stile, Op. 2, a song cycle for baritone and string quartet, has not been much played outside of Britain, and the album is worth the price (or data allotment) for this work alone. It's a very early work of Finzi's, clearly identifiable as the product of a time when Vaughan Williams ruled the roost. However, it unmistakably signals a new voice, reflective and intimate, where Vaughan Williams was public and nationalist. The six poems in the set are by Thomas Hardy and are on pastoral themes; with Hardy, there is always an edge of something else, and the poems were a brilliant pick for the young composer. The vocal performances by Marcus Farnsworth are clear and quietly inviting. The rest of the pieces are arranged, except for the Interlude for oboe and string quartet, Op. 21, but all of the arrangements work well. Particularly charming are the Five Bagatelles, Op. 23, originally for clarinet and piano, though possibly even more quirky and delicate in this version for clarinet and string quartet (sample "Carol"). The Finzi Quartet is ideal in this music, and they should be; their use of the Finzi name has been officially endorsed by the Finzi Trust. A lovely Finzi release.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|By Footpath and Stile, Op. 2 for baritone and string quartet|
|Five Bagatelles, Op. 23|