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:

http://www.npr.org/series/you-must-read-this/

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):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Finzi

http://www.geraldfinzi.com/

http://www.geraldfinzi.org/

http://www.geraldfinzi.org/indexb78c.html?page=about/biography.html

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

14 Comments »

  1. Just stumbled across this while searching for some information on Eclogue as research for my radio program. An acquaintance at a New Year’s Eve party last year had recommended it to me, but then I forgot about it. However, while looking for some cello works to include on a show a few months ago, I ran across Finzi’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra and when I bought the cd so I could include it on the program, there was Eclogue. I loved it, but didn’t realize that it was the piece I’d been told about until I saw that acquaintance a few days ago. So, nearly a year later, I am now looking for details to share about it. My program is called Something Old, Something New and make connections between music of different eras. So, if there is some other piece of music you hear echoes of in Eclogue, please let me know!

    Comment by Kit Hulit — December 31, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

  2. Thanks for your discussion of Eclogue. I heard it on the car radio and made a point of remembering it. When I went to the search engine, your site is the first that came up. Thank goodness that classical radio still survives in many places; without it, I would never have come across much wonderful music!

    Comment by Robert — October 2, 2015 @ 6:55 pm

  3. I too find this piece by Finzi very beautiful.

    I’ve just returned from a ten mile walk through some of the English countryside you refer to and I can testify that the pastoral qualities within Eclogue are alive and well.

    In fact, had I been listening to this work as I tramped across the verdant countryside of Wiltshire, with its pockets of woodland carpeted, at this time of year, by bluebells, its brooks running bright and clear and the whole scene dominated by the nearby downland, Eclogue would have provided the perfect soundtrack.

    Close your eyes and think of England the next time you listen to this wonderful music and you’ll be there in an instant.

    Comment by jmshrrsn — May 12, 2015 @ 12:32 pm

  4. Yes it’s excellent ! I first heard it via a Nimbus Sampler cd volume 3 twenty years ago.

    Comment by alexpop — April 22, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

  5. I first heard this song during one of the most difficult days of my life. Our local NPR station in Oklahoma was playing mourning music, April 20, 1995, the day after the Oklahoma City Bombing. I was driving toward Oklahoma City that morning and as this beautiful Finzi piece played, a military caravan passed me. I knew they were moving toward the bombing site. The facts of the story were still unfolding. Friends and acquaintances were still missing. The contrast moved me to tears.

    In this piece, I will always hear the piano telling a story of love, sorrow and resilience as the community of other musicians responds with assurance and compassion. I have since worked in many circumstances of tragedy and often return to this piece as a reminder that we are not alone in our sorrow.

    Rev Mary Hughes Gaudreau

    Comment by Mary Hughes Gaudreau — January 28, 2012 @ 11:54 am

    • Hi Mary,
      Thank you for reading and replying with such a personal and memorable story.
      The Finzi is indeed a kind of balm, a restorative sound, so I can understand how it has taken on those connotations for you and how valuable it remains.
      Thank you for sharing such an intimate encounter with the world and with music.
      Good luck to you. We all wish you well.
      Are there other pieces you recommend?
      We’d love to hear.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — January 28, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

  6. I happened to this on the radio today and loved it from the first phrase. I came across this blog as I went searching for it. I am wondering if an arrangement for solo piano only exists anywhere? Obviously, something is always lost when you take a concerto and take the orchestra out, but it is just so beautiful, I would love to be able to play this piece. Thank you.

    Comment by Andelin — October 4, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    • Hi Andelin,
      I am happy that you too like the work.
      I’m sorry but I don’t know if a solo piano version exists.
      I doubt it, but you should be able to ask a music librarian near you or Google it.
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 4, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

  7. I enjoy the Eclogue, and the Romance and Prelude (both for string orchestra) as well.

    I can tell you why this music is not programmed often. Because Finzi died in 1956, his music is all under copyright. No problem, except is is all owned by Boosey and Hawkes and is Rental Only, meaning the only way to get the sheet music is to pay a ridiculously high amount of money to rent the music. For a 10-minute work like the Eclogue, they will likely charge over $300 per performance, plus shipping. With so much good music out there and budget issues abounding, few ensembles are willing to invest that kind of money into a lesser known work. And because of the string orchestra nature of the work, few groups would want to spend that money to have their winds and brass sections sit idle.

    I am not sure how to get beyond this Rental Only issue. It plagues a lot of excellent 20th Century music, and I believe it contributes to the concept of the orchestra as a museum rather than a living and evolving entity. As a conductor of 2 ensembles, I know of lots of great repertoire that I would love to program but cannot because of this stumbling block.

    Comment by Steve Kurr — July 5, 2011 @ 10:19 am

    • Hi Steve,
      Thank you for reading and replying with such insightful information.
      Please forgive my delay getting back you.
      I was out of town for a few days.
      You make very good points about the rental fees concerning Finzi’s music and other contemporary or modern composers and how that contributes to orchestras appearing devoted tot he past or ignoring the present.
      You’d think it would be in the interest of the composers and their estates to encourage more performances of the music, no?
      In any case, I will also check into Finzi’s Romance and Prelude, which sound promising.
      Thanks for the tip.
      And I still hope to hear more Finzi, both live on on the radio.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — July 9, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

  8. Thank you for beginning your series with Gerald Finzi’s Eclogue. I was first introduced to Finzi more than a dozen years ago as an accompanist for my son, a clarinetist, who played the Finzi Bagatelles and Finzis Clarinet Concerto. I have been studying piano with Renee Farley for over 15 years, and my most favorite part of our lessons is exploring piano duet repertoire. A few years ago I proposed we learn Eclogue (the Boosey and Hawkes version you show above). Throughout that season, I relished the time spent on Eclogue. The opening melody and conversation between piano and orchestra are the most gentle, intimate, restorative (to use your word) music I have ever played. I was so filled with the wonder and delight of our Eclogue duet that I invited my closest friends and family to the end-of-the-year studio recital. Eclogue remains my favorite piece of music and Finzi my favorite composer. Thank you for introducing it to your readers. enw

    Comment by Emily Wixson — July 1, 2011 @ 10:45 am

    • Hi Emily,
      Thank you for reading and replying in such detail and with such a wonderful anecdote and personal story.
      I know Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto, but not the Bagatelles.
      I will check them out, thanks to your suggestion.
      I’m so very happy you like the fact that I started this series with Finzi’s Eclogue.
      He wrote great music and died much too young.
      Continued good listening and good playing.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — July 1, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  9. Great idea. I did not know of Finzi, so thanks for the tip..it is a beautiful, meditative, evocative piece.
    But why no link to Youtube?
    Here it is:

    Comment by Dean Schroeder — July 1, 2011 @ 8:03 am

    • Hi Dean,
      Thanks for reading and replying with such kind words and so thoughtfully.
      Glad you liked the Finzi.
      There IS indeed a link included to a YouTube performance — and it shows when I call up the page.
      It is at the bottom of the blog posting.
      It should show up for you too. Let me know if it doesn’t, OK?
      Maybe you have another favorite piece you want others to hear?
      It feels good to share beauty.
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — July 1, 2011 @ 10:13 am


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