Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Wherefore Tonight So Full Of Care

The seventh and last of Finzi’s cycle of seven Part-songs setting the poetry of Robert Bridges, Wherefore to-night so full of care’s text is the darkest and most troubled of the set. For Bridges everything about life, including sorrow, was fleeting and this transience provides him with solace. Finzi’s setting reflects this in his harmonic…

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Haste On, My Joys!

Haste On, My Joys! is the sixth in the series of seven songs setting poems by Robert Bridges. It’s a five-part setting (SSATB) written shortly after Finzi stopped teaching harmony at the Royal Academy of Music in London. With its very energetic part-writing and rhythmic writing Finzi’s music reflects the youthful exuberance of the first…

John Blow (1649 – 1708): Venus and Adonis

Technically John Blow’s Venus and Adonis is a masque1 and indeed he himself described it as such. I suspect that he called it a masque simply because masques were a known quantity and operas were not. Leaving aside questions of nomenclature you can make a good case that with Venus and Adonis  Blow took the…

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Nightingales

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,…

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Clear And Gentle Stream!

The fourth in Finzi’s series of seven part-songs setting poems by Robert Bridges Clear And Gentle Stream! reflects  Finzi’s intense love  for  the  English countryside and his acceptance – which he shares with Bridges of  of life’s impermanence. I love this song, its almost madrigalian nature, and the way in which Finzi treats the text…

Derrick Gerarde (fl c1540–80): Sive vigilem

Gerarde was a Flemish composer who moved to England where he worked for first Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and then his son-in-law Lord Lumley very little is known of his life and anything you read about him is at best  speculative and at worst downright misleading. Most of his surviving music is found in…

Mater ora filium — 14th century polyphony

This source of this charming piece of 14th century polyphony is a Gradual of Sarum chant now in the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library1 Both the composer and the text’s author are unknown and it seems likely as it was the only polyphonic item in the gradual that it was intended for liturgical use. It’s…

Henry VIII – Grene growith the holy

Given how closely it follows the carol form I think it’s safe to assume that ‘Grene growith the holy’ (Green grows the holly) was composed for Christmas celebrations. Only the burden’s music (the refrain) has come down to us so an anonymous  tune from the manuscript of Henry’s compositions is generally used for the verses.…