Gerald Finzi, 1901 – 1956
Gerald Finzi was born in London on July 14, 1901. His father was of Italian origin and his mother, German. His father died when he was just seven and following the outbreak of the First World War he moved to Harrogate with his mother. Then he moved to Painswick, Gloucestershire in 1922 where he was able to compose in tranquillity. But rural and musical isolation soon became oppressive and in 1926 he moved back to London.
He became acquainted with Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose influence he always acknowledged and who conducted his Violin Concerto in 1928. Other acquaintances in London included Holst, Bliss, Rubbra and Ferguson. In 1930 he gained a teaching appointment at the Royal Academy of Music, but in 1933 gave up the post after he married artist Joy Black and moved back to the country, to Aldbourne, Wiltshire.
His burgeoning career was soon thwarted by the outbreak of the Second World War, and in 1939 the Finzis moved to Ashmansworth Farm, Hampshire. During the war years Finzi was drafted into the Ministry of War Transport and opened his house to a number of German and Czech refugees.
With the return of peace Finzi began to receive a series of important commissions, but learned that he was suffering from Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of leukaemia, and was told he had between five and ten years to live. The discovery in no way lessened his activities, and he worked on the music of Hubert Parry and edited the overtures of William Boyce. A commission from Sir John Barbirolli for the 1955 Cheltenham Festival brought forth the Cello Concerto, Finzi’s most ambitious, purely instrumental work. He finally lost his fight the illness and died on September 27, 1956. His Cello Concerto was first broadcast the night before he died. His music continues to be much admired and celebrated. It embraces a rich variety of moods, from elegiac lyricism, through spiritual reflection, to radiant joy.
Karl Jenkins, 1944 – today
Karl Jenkins was born and raised in Penclawdd, Gower, Wales. His mother was Swedish and his father was Welsh. Jenkins received his initial musical instruction from his father who was the local schoolteacher, chapel organist and choirmaster. He attended Gowerton Grammar School. He studied music at Cardiff University, and then commenced postgraduate studies in London at the Royal Academy of Music.
For the bulk of his early career Jenkins was known as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing baritone and soprano saxophones, keyboards and oboe, an unusual instrument in a jazz context. In 1972 he joined the Canterbury progressive rock band Soft Machine. The group played venues including The Proms, Carnegie Hall, and the Newport Jazz Festival.
As a composer, his breakthrough came with the crossover project Adiemus. He has conducted the Adiemus project in Japan, Germany, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as London’s Royal Albert Hall and Battersea Power Station. In 2008 his composition The Armed Man was listed as No. 1 in Classic FM’s Top 10 by living composers.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Leicester, the Chancellor’s Medal from the University of Glamorgan and honorary visiting professorships at Thames Valley University, London College of Music and the ATriUM, Cardiff. Jenkins was appointed OBE in the 2005 New Year Honours and CBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours. In 2015 he was made a Knight Bachelor and received the BASCA Gold Badge Award for his unique contribution to music.