In his recent review ( http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2009/Nov09/In_Terra_Pax_8572102.htm ) Simon Thompson gives a very good evaluation of the new Naxos Christmas disc, at the heart of which lies Finzi's wonderful Christmas piece. However, intending purchasers may wish to know one important piece of information about the performance, which is nowhere apparent in the Naxos booklet or on the CD's jewel case.
The version recorded by Naxos is the 1956 version that Finzi made for that year's Three Choirs Festival, the premiere of which he conducted in Gloucester Cathedral just weeks before his untimely death. This version is scored for a much fuller orchestra - including woodwind and brass - than that of the original 1951 version, which requires just strings, a harp and, at one point, a cymbal. The full orchestral scoring is more colourful , of course, but the larger forces perhaps make Finzi's piece a bigger, more 'public' work and without doubt some of the intimacy and delicacy of the original is lost.
Perhaps the ideal is to have a recording of each version? And anyone investing in this enjoyable Naxos disc will be able to experience Roderick Williams singing the solo part, possibly the best performance of the role on record since the one by the incomparable John Shirley-Quirk on Richard Hickox's Decca recording from the late 1970s - which uses the original scoring.
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