Gerald Finzi: biographical information

We hold a number of collections related to Gerald Finzi. This page includes biographical information about Gerald Finzi and sources of further information

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956) was an English composer who lived for much of his life at Ashmansworth, near Newbury. It was because of this local connection that a link developed between his family and the University after Finzi's death.

Finzi was a part of a circle of English composers which included his friend and mentor, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edmund Rubbra, Herbert Howells, Robin Milford and Howard Ferguson (with whom Finzi maintained a regular correspondence). Finzi's musical style owes much to Vaughan Williams, but he also drew inspirations from Bach (notably in the Grand Fantasia), Parry and Elgar. Throughout his life, from the early losses of his father and brothers to the news of own terminal illness, Finzi was aware of the brevity of life - a theme constantly evoked in the texts he set to music, such as Requiem da camera, composed in memory of Ernest Farrar, his first teacher who died in the Great War.

After a private education, including a course in counterpoint from R.O. Morris in 1925, Finzi taught at the Royal Academy of Music from 1930-1933. Works from this early period include the Severn Rhapsody (1923) and the Violin Concerto (1928). Following his marriage to the artist Joyce (Joy) Black (1907-1991) in 1933, the Finzis moved for a short time to Aldbourne in Wiltshire before settling at Church Farm in Ashmansworth. It was at Church Farm that Finzi collected a large library of English literature. He found time to compose (notably his Hardy and Shakespeare song settings and song cycle Dies natalis), conduct the Newbury String Players, edit and publish the works of eighteenth century English composers, and catalogue the music of Hubert Parry. Finzi's music was often composed over several years. Many of the pieces completed after the war had their genesis in sketches made early in his career. It was only after the war that Finzi began to attain prominence following the 1950 performance of Intimations of Immortality at the Three Choirs Festival. Other works for which he received acclaim include the 'cello and clarinet concertos and the anthem, Lo the full final sacrifice.

Following Finzi's death, the Finzi Trust was established to promote Finzi's work as well as to support aspiring composers. The Finzi Trust has generously sponsored a number of events and activities at the University over the years, including the annual Finzi Poetry Reading, the Finzi Composition Prize and the 2001 Finzi Centenary event.

Further sources of biographical information

  • Banfield, Stephen. Gerald Finzi: an English composer (London: Faber and Faber, 1997).
    This includes extensive analysis of his compositions.
  • Ferguson, Howard and Hurd, Michael (eds.) Letters of Gerald Finzi and Howard Ferguson (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2001).
  • McVeagh, Diana. "Finzi, Gerald" In: Sadie, Stanley (ed.) The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians (2nd ed. Macmillan, 2001), v.8, p. 876-879.
    This short article provides a brief biography and works list.
  • McVeagh, Diana. Gerald Finzi : his life and music (Woodbridge : Boydell and Brewer, 2005)
  • Russell, John. "Gerald Finzi", Musical times, v.97, no. 1366, 1956, p. 630-631.
    This is a short tribute written shortly after Finzi's death.
  • Ferguson, Howard. "Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)", Music & Letters, v.38, no. 2, 1957, p. 130-135

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