Letters of Gerald Finzi and Howard Ferguson

Letters of Gerald Finzi and Howard Ferguson

Letters of Gerald Finzi and Howard Ferguson

Letters of Gerald Finzi and Howard Ferguson


The letters that passed, on an almost daily basis, between the composers Howard Ferguson and Gerald Finzi provide not only a fascinating commentary on the British musical scene of the period 1926-1956, but also what amounts to a unique dual-biography of two remarkable, though very different, personalities. Their lives, their loves, their enthusiasms and their prejudices are laid bare with a rare degree of candour, so that we learn not only what it was like to be witness to an art that was enjoying an unprecedented explosion of creative vitality, but also how they came to explore and consolidate their own exceptional talents. Biographical background narratives provide links that make clear what intimate correspondents inevitably take for granted, and explanations are given for references that the passage of time has made obscure. Their lives are thus revealed in all their diversity - tragedy and comedy, achievement and frustration, justifiable pride and unreasoning prejudice playing equal parts in this absorbing tale of two outstanding musical personalities of the twentieth century.


When Howard Ferguson died on 1 November 1999 he had only a few days before finished finally checking the typescript of his and Michael Hurd's edition of his correspondence with Gerald Finzi. I had first heard of his plans for the edition shortly after he had asked me to act as his musical executor in 1988. Thereafter the book regularly cropped up in letters and conversation: Gerald had been the friend closest to him in his composing years and their friendship had had much the same artistic and personal significance for each other as that which, in an earlier generation, had been shared by Vaughan Williams and Holst. Thus at the end of a long and extraordinarily productive life as composer, performer and musicologist, Howard wanted very much to share this correspondence with the public as an illumination of his and Gerald's lives and music. Firm plans for publication had not been completed by the time of his death and thus it has fallen to me to bring Howard's last project to fruition.

In the Preface Howard himself acknowledges all those who helped and supported the project in his lifetime, notably Christopher and Nigel Finzi and Stephen Banfield, but the actual publication of the correspondence has only been made possible with support from furth er sources. It was clear from a reading of Howard's first draft that a certain amount of further explanatory text and footnotes would be required for the contemporary reader, a point which Howard readily accepted. Michael Hurd very kindly undertook to revise the whole edition in collaboration with Howard, and provide the necessary extra material, nearly all of which was seen and approved by Howard before his death. Howard's estate stands very much in Michael's debt for the care, attention and enthusiasm which he has brought to the project.

Throughout his life Howard had had a warm relationship with the rvw Trust, which had regularly given financial support for the recording of much of his and Gerald's music. the Trustees, encouraged by Ursula Vaughan Williams, kindly agreed to support this publication too as a fitting memorial to the two composers it had helped so often in the past. Howard's family and executors would like to acknowledge the generous grant which has made this book possible.

We should also like to thank Bruce Phillips, who read an early version of the typescript, made many useful suggestions and finally brought book and publisher together, for on his advice Boydell & Brewer accepted the work for publication. We are warmly grateful to the Managing Director, Richard Barber, and his colleagues for that.

Howard's memoir published in 1997, Music, Friends and Places, was felt by . . .

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