Of one thing we can be certain; what Hanslick called ‘the morganatic marriage of words and music’ is the least destructible of all musical elements. The marriages may be happy or unhappy, but, surely as birds must sing, so long as words exist and man is capable of feeling, there will be song. —Gerald Finzi, 1953.
I like Nightingales in its entirety as a song, but every time I hear how Finzi layers contrasting rhythms semiquavers set against crotchets and triplet quavers at the line "among the flowers, which in that heavenly air bloom the year long" to create a musical portrayal of a shimmering heat-haze I become lost in admiration. This is word-painting carried to new and glorious heights. Enjoy :-).
Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Nightingales
BEAUTIFUL must be the mountains whence ye come,
And bright in the fruitful valleys the streams, wherefrom
Ye learn your song:
Where are those starry woods? O might I wander there,
Among the flowers, which in that heavenly air
Bloom the year long!
Nay, barren are those mountains and spent the streams:
Our song is the voice of desire, that haunts our dreams,
A throe of the heart,
Whose pining visions dim, forbidden hopes profound,
No dying cadence nor long sigh can sound,
For all our art.
Alone, aloud in the raptured ear of men
We pour our dark nocturnal secret; and then,
As night is withdrawn
From these sweet-springing meads and bursting boughs of May,
Dream, while the innumerable choir of day
Welcome the dawn.
- Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, conducted by Christopher Robinson.