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Gerald Finzi

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Gerald Raphael Finzi (1901-1956) was an English composer, whose popularity has increased considerably in the years since his death.

Born on 14th July 1901 in London, the son of an Italian Jewish father and a German Jewish mother, Finzi nevertheless became one of the most characteristically English composers of his generation. Despite being an agnostic, he wrote some inspired and imposing Christian choral music.

Finzi’s father, a successful shipbroker, died when his son was seven. Gerald was educated privately. During World War I the family settled in Harrogate, and Gerald began to study music under Ernest Farrar — whose death at the Western Front affected him deeply. During these formative years he also suffered the loss of three of his brothers. These adversities contributed to Finzi’s bleak outlook on life, but he found solace in the poetry of Thomas Traherne and his favourite, Thomas Hardy, whose poems, as well as those by Christina Rossetti, he began to set to music. In the poetry of Hardy, Traherne, and later William Wordsworth, Finzi was attracted by the recurrent motif of the innocence of childhood corrupted by adult experience. From the very beginning, most of his music was elegiac in tone.

After Farrar’s death, Finzi studied privately at York Minster with the organist and choirmaster Edward Bairstow, a strict teacher compared with Farrar. In 1922, following five years of study with Bairstow, Finzi moved to Painswick in Gloucestershire, where he began composing in earnest.

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