Arts Blog

Flowers of the Field

This Naxos release (Nov. 2014) appeared very near the centennial of the beginning of World War I, or “The Great War” as it is known in Britain, from where the composers of this compelling recordings hailed.  All of the composers – Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney and Gerald Finzi – had their lives impacted by the conflict.  Vaughan Williams served as a medic; Butterworth fought at the Front, and died in1916; Ivor Gurney was injured by gas attacks, and 19 years later died in an asylum.  Gerald Finzi was a teenager who fled Zeppelin attacks, became a pupil of Gerald Farrar.  Farrar went to France and was killed on his way to the front, just days after leaving England.

After the war, Finzi composed a requiem in tribute to Farrar which quotes Butterworth’s “A Shropshire Lad”.  Butterworth’s music predates the war, but seems to predict the coming storm.  Ivor Gurney’s “The Trumpet”, based on a poem written in 1916 by Edward Thomas.  And Vaughan Williams’ An Oxford Elegy, finished in 1949, is a tribute to those who fought in the Second World War, but also memorializes his friend, George Butterworth, from three decades before.

There is an elegiac quality to the music, naturally, and these composers, who were all touched by the war in different ways, respond in their own voices.  There are moments of wistfulness, the loss of innocence, and even anger.  But you’ll also find in this music a sense of hope.  The stories told here are not unique to events of a century ago, but resonate with the experiences of our own time.

Flowers of the Field
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