CD BAM 2033
God's Hand

Inni alla notte
(Hymns to the night (from Novalis) 1932). Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg 1772-1801) was, in his very short life, the high priest, the poet, the purest voice of German romanticism. From his Hymns to the Night (Hymnen an die Nacht) Finzi drew inspiration for this symphonic poem which is remarkably different from the rest of his production for the great variety of the situations and the precise thematic individualization of the themes. Conceived, so to speak, “by panels” according to a module very much favoured by composers between the two world wars the initiator of which is considered to be Gian Francesco Malipiero, the piece offers an extremely sober material, characterized  by deliberately non well-defined lines after the fashion of Debussy, but very varied in metre and dynamics; its sections are contrasted by sharp changes of light and shadows and seem to follow the guidelines of Novalis’ poems, even though there are no explicit references. The work of thematic transformation is here so sophisticated as to make it difficult to recognize a theme although heard shortly before, according to a method of composition which tends to extract and which was to be typical of Finzi’s later works.  Inni alla notte by Gian Paolo Sonsogno (translation Nora Heger).

Il Salmo
(Psalm for chorus and orchestra 1944-45) was composed in a very different context to Finzi’s earlier works. It was 1944 and persecution was at it highest. An underlying climate of threat leading to fleeing and hiding accompanied the everyday life of the composer and his family. A tragic event is at the origin of the work. In November the Italian SS were about to capture the composer’s son. Rather than letting them take his child, Finzi surrendered and offered himself as a captive instead. The Italian SS being easy to bribe, he managed to obtain his own release, letting them have all his belongings. Il Salmo was conceived as a homage to the Lord to thank Him for having saved his son and himself and represents a renovated period of creativity after unproductive years.

The work, divided into four movements of contrasting tempos, is written for choir and orchestra including alternating piano and organ. It falls into a typically modern genre, a strand that runs through the 20 century taking free inspirations after Psalms and is exemplified by many a composer such as Poulenc, Honegger, Stravinsky, Penderecki, Petrassi and Schoenberg. Il Salmo may well be considered Finzi’s spiritual legacy. It is difficult to pin down the character of a work whose originality resides in the rethinking and reshaping of the most diverse materials drawing from the French (Faure’s Requiem and Debussy’s Martyre) as well as the late romantic choral tradition, and the contemporary music of the theatre. A further element of originality is in the text that Finzi invented himself.

I    Calmo e sereno. “Blessed is he who enters trusting in God, God Bless him from His heavenly throne.”
II   Ritmato e deciso. “The Lord is God, He sustains us; bear the thanksgiving amphora to the corners of the altar.”
III  Lento. “Thou art my God, I will pay Thee homage, my God, I will Thee extol.”
IV Con impeto. “Render homage to God, He is gracious, His mercy is infinite, glory to God. Amen.”

As the conductor Gian Paolo Sonsogno has pointed out that Finzi, in contrast to Bruckner, Salviucci and Petrassi, who used a single Psalm, and Stravinsky who mixed a number of Psalms, became himself a psalmist. The verses express a singular thankful praise to God, at times whispered at times expressionistically cried, which manifest the composer’s will not only to be thankful but also to believe and trust in God, in the very moment in which a faith is such cause of suffering. “ Believe in Music as the most powerful means of  elevation for humanity to contemplate God” Such  statement can be read in the novel Finzi wrote a few months before he started composing the Salmo. It can be assumed that he intended to realise such an ambitious program in what was to be his very last work. Il Salmo excerpt from: “Persecuted music” in Italy by Eleonora Carapella.

Igor Stravinsky was exposed to music from the day he was born on June 17, 1882. His father, Fyodor Ignatievitch, was a famous opera singer with the Mariinsky Theatre and his mother, Anna Kyrillovna, also sang and played the piano well. As Stravinsky’s memoirs relate, it was from her he “inherited the valuable ability to read orchestral scores at sight.” At nine, Stravinsky began to study piano and music theory, but his interest in music was far from the consuming passion it was to be later.  In 1901, Stravinsky followed his parents’ advice and enrolled in the St. Petersburg University to read law. Yet it was not long before he started serious experiments in composition and legal philosophy began to evaporate into the back of his mind as the idea of becoming a composer took strong preference. It was at this time Stravinsky became friendly with a fellow student, Vladimir, the youngest son of the composer, Rimsky-Korsakov. On hearing Stravinsky play, Rimsky-Korsakov advised him not to go through the rather rigid approach of the St. Petersburg Conservatoire.

“Instead” as Stravinsky wrote later, “he made me the precious gift of his unforgettable lessons.”  The master-pupil relationship developed into a close friendship, especially after the death of Stravinsky’s father in 1902.  In 1905, he graduated in law from the St. Petersburg School, but he had no intention of following a legal career. Fortunately, he made the important decision of total commitment to music, resulting in a long and extremely distinguished career. As an intellectual cosmopolitan Russian émigré, Stravinsky was to rock the world with his startling, dynamic music and came to be acknowledged as one of the greatest 20th century composers. Throughout his life he often made such declarations as, “I speak Russian, I think Russian, and, as you hear in my music, I am Russian.” After a long and extremely productive life, Stravinsky died at his home in New York on April 6, 1971.

The Firebird Suite 1919 was the first of Stravinsky’s great ballets written for the impresario Serge Diaghilev and is generally perceived as a traditional composition. There is plenty in the score that make us think of his teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who died only two years before, and there are several reminders of other composers, like such disparate personalities as Balakirev, Mendelsshon, Tchaikovsky, Scriabin and even Debussy. However, above all, there are suggestions of the Stravinsky to come, the hammering rhythms, the complicated yet often eerily transparent harmonies and one of the most spectacular climaxes in the repertory.

Aldo Finzi (1897-1945)

Inni alla notte (Symphonic Poem)

Il Salmo (Psalm for chorus and orchestra)
  2. Calmo e sereno
  3. Ritmato e deciso
  4. Lento
  5. Con impeto




  Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

The Firebird Suite 1919
  6. Introduction
  7. The Firebird and its Dance
  8. Variation of the Firebird
  9. The Princesses’ Round
10. Infernal Dance of King Kashchei
11. Lullaby
12. Finale


Total playing time 68:12
The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Nicolai Giuliani, Conductor

DDD Digital Recording.
Kiev Radio Broadcasting Studio, 11/2003

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