The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: “You Must Hear This” No. 1 – Gerald Finzi’s “Eclogue” for piano and string orchestra

July 1, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

NPR runs an occasional series of stories or opinion pieces that feature writers who recommend books. It is called “You Must Read This.”

Although I keep up with and read a lot of literature, I find these suggestions very helpful. They cover new releases and current authors, of course, but also old or neglected classics by dead writers.

Here is a link to that series:

Then one day I found myself wondering why the same couldn’t be true for music.

So I am starting what I hope will turn out to be an occasional series: “You Must Hear This.” The idea is for me — and especially for you readers — to offer suggestions to listen to.

I think the best suggestions are probably less well-known composers and neglected works. They could be songs or choral music, instrumental solos or chamber music, orchestral music or opera, whatever.

I am open to many different suggestions, though they should be “classical,” in keeping with the blog.

You send them in and I will prepare and then post them PUBLICLY.

As for what you should say, I think a good introduction to a suggestion would include:

Who you are?

How did you learn about this music or first come to hear it. And what was your immediate reaction?

How would you describe the music or the performance, and what makes it special for you or for others?

If you can, include a link to an excerpt or the whole piece on YouTube, whenever possible, so we can hear it right away.

The one I am choosing to launch the series is Gerald Finzi’s early “Eclogue,” Op. 10, for piano and string orchestra.

Here are some links to some background on Finzi (below):

I first came to know this short 10-minute work – a movement from an uncompleted piano concerto — maybe 15 or 20 years ago. I heard it by chance on NPR and found it so arresting that I wondered how it had escaped my attention. So I went out and bought a recording and listened to it quite a bit. It also led to other Finzi works, including his Cello Concerto. The “Eclogue,” though, remains my favorite.


But then I pretty much forgot about it until I posted something about summer music and UW professor and baritone Paul Rowe sent in a comment about how British composers seem to have a special knack for capturing landscape in sound.

Certainly this is the case with the Finzi work, as its name implies. The Brits certainly do seem to have a flair for pastoral music. But then they also have a beautiful countryside as inspiration, the same countryside that inspired so many poets and other writers.  (Below is Finzi, left, with fellow and more famous British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.)

I find “Eclogue” to be a wonderfully restful, calming and even restorative piece. And for the life of mew, I can’t understand why it isn’t programmed more often by chamber orchestra and string orchestras. It is beautiful and something sure to make new fans every time it is played.

Let me know what you think of the idea for the series “You Must Hear This”? Good idea or bad?

And be sure send in your posting and suggestion?

And what do you think of Finzi’s “Eclogue,” and whether you knew it already or not?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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