If I have a favourite classical composer, someone whose music connects more deeply with who I am than any other, it would be the English composer Gerald Finzi (1901-56).  I had never heard of Finzi until I was a student, and by chance one day a trailer for a forthcoming programme came on the radio, featuring an older recording of a clear, passionate tenor voice singing a brilliant, rapturous melody to whirling string accompaniment.  It was a programme celebrating the life of tenor Wilfred Brown, and the piece of Gerald Finzi’s ‘Dies Natalis’, a setting of Thomas Traherne’s poem of the same name (of which Brown had made one of the earliest, most celebrated recordings).  Some of the most meaningful and precious music is that which, when first hearing it, I have a sense that I always knew music so beautiful was out there somewhere, but which one couldn’t imagine until actually discovering it.  As I dug around in the city library CD collection over the next few years I discovered more and more of Finzi’s music and virtually every piece I found spoke to me in the same way.  Early discoveries were the clarinet concerto, choral works including God is Gone Up and Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice.  When I finished by postgraduate study I treated myself to a double CD of Finzi’s settings of poems by Thomas Hardy.  Finzi was a brilliant setter of words to music, and as well as loving the music his song settings also enabled me to understand poetry and liturgy much more than I had previously done – somehow his melodic writing and reflective colourscapes brought the words to life.  As I learned more about Finzi I found some common strands of experience: a nagging sense of time passing (possibly the common factor in appreciating some Thomas Hardy), an emotional/aesthetic affinity to the Anglican spiritual tradition, a progressive rather than nationalistic Englishness, growing apples, and a love of the Hampshire downs.  Finzi once wrote of his doubts that much of his musical legacy would become hugely celebrated, but nevertheless hoped that his music would continue to be available, for those who had ears to hear in, and in such cases that ‘to shake hands with a good friend over the centuries may be a pleasant thing’.  Well, may I shake you by the hand and thank you for your wonderful music.  BBC R3’s ‘Composer of the Week’ podcast on Finzi, originally produced to mark the 50th anniversary of his death is a great introduction to anyone wishing to make his musical acquaintance: http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/bdc820cb-c7cf-4301-8f5d-ec9ae2f62f94

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