Gerald Finzi is one of the best-known modern English composers. While he is especially famous as a song-writer, for his sensitive settings of poets such as Hardy and Wordsworth, he also wrote in other genres; notable works include the exquisite cantata Dies Natalis, and his cello concerto. He also exerted a major influence in the musical world as a whole, championing the neglected Ivor Gurney and reviving eighteenth-century composers with the amateur orchestra he founded.
In this lively and sensitive study of his life and works, Diana McVeagh, the renowned Elgar and Finzi scholar, has made use of interviews with the main figures in his life, correspondence with contemporaries such as Vaughan Williams, Edmund Blunden, Arthur Bliss, Edmund Rubbra, Howard Ferguson and Herbert Howells, and her access to previously unpublished material in the form of his widow, Joy's, unpublished journal. The Finzi that emerges is a multi-faceted and complex character. The author shows how he developed from a solitary, introverted youth into a man with strong views and a myriad of interests: everything from education, pacifism, vegetarianism, to the Arts and Crafts movement, the English pastoral tradition, English apple varieties, and the significance of ancestry, friendship and marriage in an artist's life. She also discusses every work within the narrative of Finzi's life, and shows what makes his output so outstanding.
McVeagh's analyses unfailingly draw the reader's attention to the melodic and harmonic subtleties of Finzi's writing. At her best, as in a beautiful passage on Finzi and Hardy, she sings with a lyricism that matches Finzi's own. This book comes as a timely reminder that there should be a place for the finely wrought music of a minor master. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT [Richard Lawrence]
This has been long in preparation, but the wait has been worthwhile. Lucky the composer who finds so fair-minded, candid and scrupulous a biographer and one who writes so well...[McVeagh's] analyses achieve the rare distinction of being both illuminating and readable. This is one of the best-written books about a musician to appear for many years. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE [Michael Kennedy]
McVeagh surely loves Finzi's music and it shows. However her devotion is clear-eyed and her writing completely avoids the sort of pastoral hagiography that Finzi scholarship can easily collapse into. The book is self-recommending but that does not stop me recommending it. - CLASSICAL MUSIC ON THE WEB
[This] is unquestionably destined to be the standard biography of Gerald Finzi. - RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS SOCIETY JOURNAL [Rolf Jordan]
[Now] we have McVeagh at last, so good and so well written that those who already possess...other books must have it, not only to complement them but for the sheer pleasure afforded by such a winning combination of scholarship, insight and clear-eyed humanity.. their belief will be reinforced and intensified by Miss McVeagh's candour and her remarkable achievement in writing not only a good biography but in re-creating the atmosphere of English musical life in the half-century of Finzi's life. FINZI NEWSLETTER
With clear-eyed affection for her subject, McVeagh relates Finzi's poignant history with clarity of design that does not preclude empathy, and never allows herself the luxury of letting him off lightly over either musical or personal foibles...[a] lovely, warm and elegiac book. MUSIC & LES [Byron Adams]
[A] combination of meticulous scholarship and study of Finzi the person results in a book that paints the most complete portrait of Finzi the man and his music yet available. MUSICOLOGICAL RESEARCH