The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (188): Stiff upper lip

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (188): Stiff upper lip


norman lebrecht

September 22, 2020

Sir Adrian Boult displayed no emotion on the podium.

He put it all phlegmatically into the music.

This is the gorgeous prelude by the Anglo-Jewish Gerald Finzi, a north Londoner masquerading as a Cotswolds countryman



  • D** says:

    Wonderful piece! It’s a shame Finzi’s music isn’t performed very often in the United States.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I saw Boult conduct at the Proms when he was a very old man. Amazing how much he got out of an orchestra with so much economy.

    • John Kelly says:

      My first Prom was Boult sharing a program and conducting the second half. Brahms 1 preceded by Siegfried Idyll. 1976. I will never forget the golden glow of sonority he got in the Wagner. Magnificent.

    • Peter Phillips says:

      I too saw Boult at a prom when he was a very old man. It was 1967 and he was replacing Sargent in the Dream of Gerontius. Sargent and Barbirolli we’re reckoned the go-to conductors for the work but Boult’s performance was passionate and intense. The judgement passage was shattering though Boult seemed hardly to move. He could get so much by seeming to do so little, an object lesson for some of today’s more balletic maestri and maestrae.

      • Garry Humphreys says:

        Agree with everything you say, Peter; but in 1967 he was only 78, and continued conducting until 1981. He died in 1983, age 93! Appearances can be deceptive!

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I was a young student when I had similar experiences Karl Böhm. I went on to try to imitate his extreme economy of movement as my model in my conducting class for non-majors, with disastrous results.

  • Allen says:

    For many it’s an acquired taste, and difficult at first to get the “cow looking over a gate” image out of one’s mind. Well worth the effort though.

    (I know that the cow analogy wasn’t aimed at Finzi, before someone feels obliged to point it out.)

    • Garry Humphreys says:

      But have you heard his songs – particularly his settings of Thomas Hardy – quite terrifying, some of them?

      • Allen says:

        Yes, I’m actually an advocate of “cow gate” music. The point I was making, perhaps not very well, is that it doesn’t have the immediate appeal of some of the more rumbustious stuff. I think people tend to come to it later, when the appeal of musical fireworks has worn off.

      • christopher storey says:

        Interesting that you mention the songs, Garry. My regular lieder partner and I tried them out last year, and found them extraordinarily difficult, mainly because there is hardly a bar goes by without a change in time signature… not to mention very unusual and frequent modulations. Quite wonderful music to listen to throughout his quite extensive output, my favourite being Farewell to Arms

  • Edgar Self says:

    I like everything I’ve heard by Gerald Finzi. Of how many composers can that be said? For me, Fr. Ancre Gretry, Lars-Erik Larsson, Etienne Mehul seem never to miss, or almost never I wish we had more of their music, and more conductors like Sir Adrian Boult. A good choice.

  • V. Lind says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Edgar Self. I love Finzi. This was true “Comfort Zone” music.

  • Edgar Self says:

    I’ve enjoyed albino tenor Toby Spence and the splendid Canadian baritone Gerald Finley in some of Gerald Finzi’s songs and vocal music. I’m glad to see the support for Finzi and hismusic here,and did not know he is half-Jewish … but,– which half?