Gerald Finzi was an English composer known for his musical imagery. He experienced severe loss early in his life. His father passed away when he was very young; his revered music teacher was killed in France after joining the army; and his three elder brothers passed away, all before Finzi entered his twenties. It may be due to experiencing so much loss that he chose to live in isolation for a time. In the early 1920s, he had moved to Painswick in Gloucestershire to write without distraction. The countryside became his inspiration, and was the same inspiration for composers such as Elgar and Vaughan Williams. It was during this time that he began writing the Five Bagatelles.
Though they are all short and somewhat light in temperament, they are separated by style and key. Rather than having an accompaniment role throughout, the piano is given a more prominent role. Prelude offers an energetic opening and contains a gentle, lyrical middle passage that hints at the variety that will be heard in the following movements. The Romance is a charming piece that creates an intimate setting by putting the clarinet’s tone color on full display. Carol is sweetly simplistic; its singing style enhances the melody and keeps it as fresh at the end as it did at the beginning. Forlana reflects the traditional Italian dance of the same name, as the melodic line lilts along in a cheerful, floating manner. Fughetta provides a spirited finale; the piano and clarinet play against each other in a short fugue, helping the liveliness heard in the Prelude to reemerge and offering a sprightly conclusion to this set.
Listen (performances by Sharon Murphy, recorded March 4, 2008):