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Penguin Guide, January 2009

The Naxos version, with Tim Hugh a most sensitive soloist, has the advantage not only of bargain price but of a very apt coupling in two of Finzi’s concertante works with piano, originally designed for a concerto. Peter Donohoe is the powerful soloist, not always as tender as he might be, but still very sympathetic. A good bargain alternative choice.

Ian Lace
Fanfare, November 2002

Another Naxos recording enters my Want List 2002: Tim Hughes’s beautifully shaped and gently sympathetic reading of Finzi’s Cello Concerto together with Peter Donohoe’s poetic reading of the same composer’s Ecologue for Piano and Strings and his exciting rendition of Finzi’s Grand Fantasia and Toccata for Piano and Orchestra. This is an irresistible bargain.

Robert Moon
Audiophile Audition, May 2002

"The Eclogue for Piano and Strings, originally the middle movement of an uncompleted piano concerto, brims with gorgeous melodies infused with pensive reveries of the tranquil nature of life in nineteenth century rural England. It's one of the great musical examples of sadness fused to beauty that makes for unforgettable listening. A great disc for anyone who loves the cello or English music."

Ian Lace
Fanfare, April 2002

"The central slow movement [of the Cello Concerto] has to be one of the loveliest movements in the whole of British music... Tim Hugh... renders a beautifully shaped and gently sympathetic reading with Howard Griffiths providing a splendidly expressive accompaniment... Donohoe goes full-tilt at the excitement and grandeur of [the] neo-Bachian Fantasia and the salty tang and jaunty swagger of the Waltonian Toccata... At the Naxos bargain price, this is a Finzi album that is irresistible."

Bill Marsh
The Delian, March 2002

"Naxos continues its fine series of English music with a very good Finzi collection... The Eclogue is one of Finzi's most heartfelt pieces and it gets a good performance here from Donohoe and the Northern Sinfonia, although strings could be fuller... The best effort is the Cello Concerto. Tim Hugh gives a fine performance."

The Economist, December 2001

"Another centenary that has brought some neglected music to public attention is that of Gerald Finzi. One of his last works, a cello concerto that was first performed in 1955, the year before his death, is given a vivid new outing by Tim Hugh with the Northern Sinfonia conducted by Howard Griffiths. Finzi combines an unmistakably English, pastoral influence with a bleakness that seems to depict both the composer's own mortality and the weary lessons of the immediate past. The CD also includes some of Finzi's piano works, eloquently played by Peter Donohoe."

Wayne Lee Gay
Star-Telegram, December 2001

"Haunted by incurable illness, 20th-century British composer Gerald Finzi (1901-56) imbued his music with rage, resignation and reconciliation. Among the works on this disc, the seldom-heard cello concerto contains all three; an equally masterful and equally unknown Eclogue for piano and strings creates an aura of serenity while a lively Grand Fantasia and Toccata for piano and orchestra completes the disc - all performed with devotion and sensitivity."

Geoffrey Norris
The Daily Telegraph (Australia), November 2001

"The Finzi centenary yields up this fine, budget-priced performance of the Cello Concerto, a work that has a particular poignancy in that it was the last music the composer heard while lying on his deathbed in September 1956. It is a work shot through with anguish, resignation and a touch of defiance, too. ...Tim Hugh and the Northern Sinfonia stress its strengths both in terms of emotional colouring and in the balance of tender nostalgia with more dramatic pitting of forces one against the other.

The Eclogue and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata were both originally intended as movements for a piano concerto. Finzi seems to have been advised quite early on that the Bachian fantasia would not do for a concerto, but it stands up pretty well as an independent piece. Peter Donohoe is as adept at defining its neo-Baroque character as he is sensitive to the reflective aura of the Eclogue."

Christopher Wood
BBC Music Magazine, November 2001

"Tim Hugh and the Northern Sinfonia communicate with depth and feeling. Hugh is recorded more as first among equals than prominent soloist, which works well... Peter Donohoe plays [Eclogue] with great charm and simplicity before uncovering a much more hard-edged and driven side in an excellent performance of the Bach-influenced Grand Fantasia and Toccata. Overall, this is a fine disc and a valuable contribution to Finzi's centenary." Performance: 5 Stars, Sound: 4 Stars

Michael Jameson, October 2001

"This high-quality production begins with Tim Hugh's lucid, thoughtful, penetrating account of Gerald Finzi's reflective and often elusive Cello concerto. Hugh's measured, noble expressivity gives the unsettled opening movement a powerful sense of line and also real pathos. In contrast, Raphael Wallfisch's 1986 recording for Chandos takes the first movement at a broader pace, but Hugh's urgent arguments seem more alive to dynamic shadings and are more poignantly resigned. Hugh gets more bite and punch into Finzi's 'Scotch-Snap' rhythms here, and attains a bleaker, blacker atmosphere than Wallfisch in the coda. Although there are passages where a larger orchestra would have added greater impact, the Northern Sinfonia accompanies Hugh beautifully in the andante, where you'll hear several outstanding contributions from the winds. Hugh's finale, too, generates starker contrasts than Wallfisch's, particularly during the unexpected slow episode part way through, and in the scurrying passagework elsewhere, where soloist and orchestra achieve a chamber-like intimacy.

Peter Donohoe is soloist in Finzi's two works for piano and orchestra, the Eclogue (1929--accompanied by strings alone) and Grand Fantasia and Toccata (1927), both of which were conceived for a piano concerto that never materialized. Donohoe's direct, un-mannered treatment of the Eclogue results in a finely controlled performance that casts ample light on the text without sentimentalizing it. The Nimbus version with Martin Jones and the English String Orchestra under William Boughton is well played too, but the washy acoustic robs the music of inner detailing that registers clearly on the Naxos disc. The Grand Fantasia and Toccata is a demanding virtuoso work inspired by Finzi's love of Bach. What's so compelling about Donohoe's account is that he sees the piece as a kind of neo-Baroque refraction, more closely associated with the 20th century than the 18th. It's a keenly incisive performance; Donohoe's strident accents and penetrating clarity seem ideal... Phillip Fowke recorded the piece for EMI with Richard Hickox in 1988, but his version hasn't the austere power of Donohoe's. This Naxos release combines performances of impressive stature with pleasingly natural and well-balanced recorded sound. It'll prove hard to beat, especially at budget price."

David Patrick Stearns
The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Composer Gerald Finzi is suddenly becoming known outside his native England in this his 100th birthday year. His growing reputation will benefit from these knowing, committed performances of little-played could happily return to this disc many times."

Edward Greenfield

"Naxos adds to its growing store of fine cello concerto recordings with what many will regard as an ideal coupling: two movements originally designed for a projected Piano Concerto... In this challenging work Tim Hugh gives a masterful performance... The Northern Sinfonia cannot be faulted either... [the] pianissimos are magically gentle."

Bob Stumpf
Classical Net

"After being bowled over by Finzi's Clarinet Concerto (Naxos 8.553566) I knew I had to listen to this...Now, as to these recordings, this is not even close. Here we have a budget label with soloists that many people might not be familiar with. (Though Donohoe is a name I would hope serious collectors would know...if not you should definitely try out this disc) In the other corner we have "CHANDOS" and its excellent sound aided by a cellist whose name is better known...and perhaps more so. Well, it isn't even close. David wins hands down...Hugh digs into the cello; there is a rasp that brings to mind Casals. Listening to this the Elgar certainly came to mind. The sound has that natural sense to it. The orchestra, likely smaller than the ones on Chandos, produces a perspective that is in balance with the soloist. Details delight...Then comes Wallfisch. When I saw who the cellist was I was certain that he would sound better than Naxos' Hugh. Boy, was I wrong. The playing is good and offers another facet to the music. Still, it did not get me involved like the Hugh recording did. I have relistened to the Naxos and Chandos recordings and my feelings have only firmed. Wallfisch leaves me cold, the orchestra is okay but the sound is not as transparent. I miss details I love in the Naxos recording."

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