Finzi, Gerald: Five Bagatelles for Clarinet and Piano

Gerald Finzi is known mostly as a composer of un-Modern English songs, and for the absolute care with which he set their texts. He wrote nine song cycles, including six to works of Thomas Hardy and one to works of Shakespeare (“Let us garlands bring”). Finzi also wrote English anthems, larger choral works, and a very beautiful cello concerto. He wrote very little instrumental chamber music, though; the Five Bagatelles for Clarinet are by far the most often played of his chamber works.

Beyond the music, his reputation is a combination of pastoral, kind, quiet, and odd Ð a bit depressed, actually. Almost all biographies remark immediately on his sense of fragility or ‘bleakness’; but on the other hand, they also speak of his love for English verse and his devotion to apple-growing (he saved several varieties from extinction). Through some accidents of the Second World War, the onset of Hodgkins’ disease, and his choice to move away from London, he was never a particularly fashionable or famous composer, but that didn’t seem to be much to his liking, in any case. He was well enough regarded to remain known now, for reasons which are clear enough from these Five Bagatelles.

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