Gerald Finley



Some upcoming engagements of Gerald Finley

Gerald Finley -- photo credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke

Julius Drake -- photo credit: Marco Borggreve

John Pierce


Britten: Songs & Proverbs of William Blake

Gerald Finley, baritone, and Julius Drake, piano

The Tyger (plate 42 from Songs of Innocence and of Experience, copy AA, P.125-1950.pt42) (c1815/26) by William Blake (1757-1827)
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge / Bridgeman Art Library, London, release date 8 June 2010

Britten: Songs & Proverbs Of William Blake,, release date 1 June 2010, release date 17 June 2010, release date 1 June 2010

Hyperion number CDA67778

Recording details: December 2008
All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: June 2010
Total duration: 73 minutes 27 seconds

Track listings at Hyperion Records site

"The unbeatable, multi-award-winning partnership of Gerald Finley and Julius Drake turn to the composer Benjamin Britten for their latest Hyperion release. Although Britten is particularly celebrated for the substantial body of music he composed for the tenor voice, the composer also left an important legacy of music for baritone. Characteristically, Britten's output for low voice was also inspired by the talents of specific performers with whom he was closely associated, among them Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and John Shirley-Quirk. In addition to song-cycles, individual songs and folksong arrangements, Britten wrote challenging baritone roles in operas as diverse as Billy Budd (1951), Owen Wingrave (1970) and Death in Venice (1972)--the title role of the second of these made very much Gerald Finley's own in his magnificent interpretation in Margaret Williams's 2001 television film of the opera. This disc contains Britten's two important song cycles for baritone: Tit for Tat, setting the poems of Walter de la Mare, and the more substantial and challenging Songs and Proverbs of William Blake. The latter was written for Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau; designed to showcase his unique blend of intense lyricism and dramatic characterization, qualities which are undoubtedly also exhibited by Gerald Finley. Also included are some of Britten's popular folksong settings, and a selection of later songs, which received exposure and publication only after the composer's death in December 1976."-- Notes at

One of Anne Midgette's Top 10 Classical and Opera Releases of 2010.


"The early song cycle on poems by Walter de la Mare, Tit for Tat, together with a motley collection of folk song arrangements and one-offs (including a setting of Goethe's Um Mitternacht) make an odd context for one of Britten's greatest song cycles. But Gerald Finley sings them all with such an unwaveringly beautiful tone and attention to every syllable, and pianist Julian Drake is so wonderfully attuned to the baritone's inflections that it hardly seems to matter."--Andrew Clements, reviewing CD of Britten: Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, etc., for, 4 stars


In the Blake cycle, "Finley as ever acquits himself as a fine singer, a conscientious artist and a thoroughly reliable musician. But the mantle of Elijah is not upon him.

"In all else he is excellent: the De la Mare mini-cycle Tit for Tat, the tall story of the wonderful crocodile, the hauntingly dissatisfied 'Greensleeves', the comedy pieces for deaf woman and bird-scarer. In all (including the Blake) Julius Drake is the superb pianist -- and perhaps that should be transferred from last sentence to first."--John Steane, Gramophone, July 2010, reproduced at


". . . Canadian Gerald Finely proves once again that he is among today's finest singers and song interpreters, and here is another display of his awesome technique, commanding expression, and vocal beauty.

* * *

"Finley and Drake have collaborated many times . . . , and it certainly shows in their knowing communication through repertoire that makes quite varied demands on both performers. Hyperion's recording is absolutely first-rate, and so is this entire production--a well-conceived and ideally performed showcase for both composer and singer." [6/17/2010]--David Vernier, Classics Today, 10 artistic quality, 10 sound quality


"I'll be bargaining with the devil for my Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recordings as I make my way into the next life, but I'll give up the one of Benjamin Britten's Songs and Proverbs of William Blake if I get to keep the new recording of the cycle by Gerald Finley and Julius Drake (Hyperion). Fischer-Dieskau, with Britten at the piano, made their recording of the cycle shortly after giving the 1965 Aldeburgh Festival premiere. But essential as that recording is, the great German baritone's English never quite cut to the core of Blake's uncompromising texts.

"Finley's native English crosses that hurdle easily, but what makes this set a consistent marvel is the seemingly infinite imagination with which he can characterize a song (in any language, as his other great recordings with the unbeatable musical partnership of Julius Drake make clear). The consuming darkness of Blake's vision coupled with the simple fact that these seven poems and the terse proverbs that precede them unfold in a single, uninterrupted musical stream only increase the daunting task of giving the songs an individual profile. Finley and Drake do just that, with the seeming artlessness that is the summit of the songmakers' art."--Tim Pfaff, The Bay Area Reporter Online

"If Ades is indeed the new Benjamin Britten, the 'old' one got the best vocal recording of the year, Gerald Finley's of his Songs and Proverbs of William Blake and assorted other songs (Hyperion) . . .."--Tim Pfaff, The Bay Area Reporter Online


"Written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the Blake cycle reveals Finley's artistic imagination and vocal responsiveness. His easy, unmannered high range (how unlike the great German baritone) traces with delicacy 'The Chimney-Sweeper,' and Drake's impressive playing in 'The Fly' both haloes the voice and represents the flitting insect. Both artists treat the stark, ominous Proverbs that link each song as hallucinatory improvisations."--Judith Malafronte, Opera News of April 2011


"We recommend it because Finley and frequent collaborator Julius Drake craft the 2008 all-Benjamin Britten release just like a recital. The innocence of the first track, 'Lemady,' hooks you in, then the painstaking, believable sentimentality of 'Tom Bowling' makes you curious about everything this duo has to say together. When the meatier, thornier content of the cycle Songs & Proverbs of William Blake spins around, you feel ready for it. And when the light fare--'The Crocodile' and 'The Deaf Woman's Courtship,' in which Finley sings in a Cockney-accent falsetto--close the program, you're charmed, and grateful for the generosity in evidence here."--from "Essentials" in Opera News of July 2012.


Winner of Gramophone's 2011 Solo Vocal Award


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