Quintessentially Finzi, the tender yet radiant Dies natalis, a setting of texts by the 17th-century poet Thomas Traherne, depicts both the first sensations of a child as it enters the world, and life’s tarnishing experience of the innocence of childhood.
In Farewell to Arms, a further example of Finzi’s enthusiasm for 17th-century poets, the steady but inevitable tramp of time, symbolized by the measured bass and the tenor’s sad, arching melody, becomes a poignant symbol for the brevity of life as expressed in lines such as ‘O time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing’. Finzi knew all too well that ‘Beauty, strength, youth are flowers but fading seen’.
“As so often, Finzi's word-setting is wonderful - a gift to any singer with a feeling for words as well as notes. James Gilchrist plainly enjoys both aspects of this work. His phrasing is typically musical and he points key syllables with great care.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2008 ****
“James Gilchrist's singing is guided by a refined (yet passionate) sensibility, just right for Finzi, and his voice has substantial reserves of resonance and power.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008
“Competition on disc, for this solo cantata, is strong. But James Gilchrist's performance, if not quite as lyrically unbuttoned as the classic EMI recording by Wilfred Brown with the composer's son conducting, is perfectly judged, while David Hill's moulding of the opening string Intrada sets the tone exactly. The rest of the disc is made up of odds and ends. The Prelude for string orchestra is all that survives of Finzi's plan to compose a chamber symphony, while The Fall of the Leaf was to be the central panel of an orchestral triptych. Farewell to Arms, a pair of settings of 17th-century poems, neatly complements the Traherne, and Gilchrist treats them with as much care.” The Guardian, 25th April 2008 ****
“With his clear, even tone, unaffected sensitivity to the text and eloquent phrasing of Finzi's long, floating melodies, James Gilchrist again proves an ideally sympathetic interpreter of the composer. David Hill draws supple, fine-textured playing from the Bournemouth orchestra and, crucially, never allows Finzi's music to meander.” The Telegraph, 26th April 2008