Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the Editor of the Times

Letter No.: 
[29 September 1956]

Appreciation of Gerald Finzi

[The Times,] Wednesday October 3, 1956

Dr. Ralph Vaughan Williams writes: -

Gerald Finzi’s last new work was the cantata In Terra Pax.  This work is significant not only for its intrinsic beauty but because it seemed to give us hope of even better things to come.  These hopes will not be fulfilled.  In Terra Pax is characteristically founded on a poem by Robert Bridges.  Finzi’s music shows an extraordinary affinity with this poet and with Thomas Hardy, both their language and their thought find an absolute counterpart in his settings.
No mention has been made in your obituary notice of Finzi’s work as a musicologist.  He was convinced that the English eighteenth-century composers were under-rated, so he brought his imaginative scholarship to bear on the British Museum and other libraries where he discovered and made known to the world many hitherto hidden treasures.
Visiting the Finzis’ house, with its wonderful view of the distant downs, was a happy experience.  Gerald had a wide and critical knowledge of English literature, his wife is an accomplished artist and his two sons are fine musicians, so that a feeling of beauty without any self-consciousness has always pervaded the atmosphere of their home, in which there was always a welcome for their many friends and where the discussion and hospitality flowered.  Finzi had strong views on all that was going on in the world, with which I did not always agree; and he expressed them in vigorous and clear-cut language.  His interests were varied; he was, for instance, an enthusiastic fruit grower; indeed he was almost as keen on reviving forgotten varieties of apples as on reviving forgotten English composers.
Finzi had a great sense of the social responsibilities of the artist.  This led him, during the war, to found the Newbury String Players, a small body of amateur musicians, who, with a little professional help, have continued ever since to bring good music to the small villages of the neighbourhood which otherwise would have been without any such artistic experience.
Finzi’s compositions range from the slightest of songs through the noble cantata Dies Natalis, to the large scale choral work Intimations of Immortality.  He also wrote much purely instrumental music, including concertos for clarinet, violoncello and pianoforte.  In all these works we find something absolutely personal, and in my opinion they will last on when other more showy but less truly original compositions are forgotten.

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Letter written on 29th September 1956 to The Times (see VWL3425) and published on Wednesday 3 October.

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