CD of the Month - Finzi, Bax and Ireland: Choral Music
Our CD of the month for February is Finzi, Bax and Ireland: Choral Music, the latest recording from the Westminster Abbey Choir. The CD showcases a collection of choral music from three of the great composers of the early twentieth century, John Ireland, Arnold Bax and Gerald Finzi. The recording took place inside Westminster Abbey during February 2016, with James O’Donnell conducting and Daniel Cook playing the organ.
The three composers were all composing during a tumultuous time in England’s history, with the two world wars and the resultant changes to society. Living through this time affected each of them in different ways, but they did have some shared experiences; for example the difficult childhoods that affected John Ireland and Gerald Finzi. Ireland lost both his parents in quick succession during his teenage years, and Finzi lost his father at the age of eight followed by his three brothers before he reached adulthood. These losses affected Finzi greatly, not just on a personal level but also creatively, and from the start his music was largely elegiac in tone. In contrast, Arnold Bax was born into a wealthy Victorian family; due to the private income they provided he was able to live comfortably and pursue his music freely without fear of how it would be received. However, like Finzi, Bax’s music fell out of fashion in his later years, with a resurgence in interest only coming towards the end of the twentieth century.
The CD focusses heavily on the work of Finzi, featuring the slow and haunting melodies of My lovely one and Lo, the full, final sacrifice alongside the rousing music of Let us now praise famous men. One of the highlights of the CD, however, must be the song Greater love hath no man composed by John Ireland, with its soaring and hopeful melodies. This piece was commissioned in 1912 was intended to be a meditation for Passiontide. However with the outbreak of World War One in 1914 Ireland discovered that this wonderful anthem inadvertently resonated with the wider national mood at the time, becoming a popular favourite. A special mention should also be given to the wonderful a cappella compositions of Arnold Bax, which provide an excellent showcase for the Westminster Abbey Choir’s wonderful voices.
To browse more recordings from the Westminster Abbey Choir, please click here.