©Robert Murray/James Atkinson

This is an archived event

'Still alive and frying bacon'

Gerald Finzi: a life in song and letters

Robert Murray tenor  James Atkinson baritone  Iain Burnside piano  Donald Macleod reader

Gerald Finzi was one of this country’s finest composers for solo voice. During his lifetime he published four sets of songs for voice and piano, three of them setting the verse of Thomas Hardy and the other (Let us garlands bring) the words of Shakespeare. Four more collections followed after his death, two of which were again settings of Hardy.   

Finzi was able to express his emotions most fully in the song medium, grounded in a recognisably English melancholy. Hardy’s words were a natural vehicle – poet and composer shared fundamental beliefs, including hatred for the futility of war and a deep respect for a natural world which exists independently, oblivious to the activities of mankind.

Finzi’s musical catalogue has only 40 opus numbers, but he corresponded with over 250 people. He seems to have kept replies to his letters and most of his own texts also survive.

Diana McVeagh has compiled a recent edition of the letters (Boydell Press, 2021). Extracts will be read by Donald Macleod, interwoven with the songs and illuminating both his life and music.

Programme Notes (also available at the concert free of charge)


Renowned for his intelligent musicianship and incisive dramatic portrayals of a broad operatic, concert, and recital repertoire, Robert Murray is firmly established as one of the most exciting musicians of his generation. He sang Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings at Little Missenden in 2013.This season he’s given recitals at Wigmore Hall, the Lammermuir Festival and Oxford Lieder, and returned to Garsington Opera as Quint and Prologue in The Turn of the Screw.

“a clear voice suffused with brightness, great diction, solid highs, pitching in at maximum expressivity with the most beautiful lilt” Bachtrack


James Atkinson is a graduate of the Royal College of Music Opera Studio who won the Royal Over-Seas League Singers Prize in 2022. He’s in demand as a recitalist and has performed at The Aldeburgh Red House, the Ludlow English Song Weekend, Song Festivals in London and Lewes, and Festivals in Lammermuir and North Norfolk.

“…his lovely lyric baritone responding to the words with invigorating warmth. As a recitalist he’s clearly a name to watch”
Hugh Canning,The Times


© TallWall Media

Iain Burnside is a prodigiously talented pianist, radio presenter and a musical entrepreneur. He’s specially prized as a song recitalist and has appeared with many of the world’s great singers.

“His lightness of touch, his expertise in balancing and supporting the voices, and his sheer love for this exquisite repertoire are simply matchless” Primephonic



Donald Macleod is one of the best known voices in classical music and has presented ‘Composer of the Week’ at midday on BBC Radio 3 for over 20 years.


Sun 16 Oct 2021 3.00pm

Little Missenden Church

£25, £18, £10