Resurrecting the composer who "went off in a huff"

David Pollock
David Pollock

Chichester harpsichordist David Pollock – as half of Duo Dorado with violinist Hazel Brooks – is hoping to resurrect a much neglected composer – one who left this country in a huff.

David and Hazel have combined to record Gottfried Finger: A Bohemian in London (Chandos).

“I think first of all, he was a very good composer,” David says, “but also he was a neglected composer. He was also the first composer in England to publish violin sonatas, but there are many, many more that remain in manuscript. They are still not published. We went to the British Library to look at a particular manuscript (British Library manuscript Add 31466, the single biggest source of violin sonatas by Finger), and we selected 13 sonatas out of about 50 for the CD. We played all of them in concert… or we played as many as we could play because we don’t like to record without the experience of having played them in concert first.

“And from those we selected the 13. We just wanted quality. The ones that we selected were the ones that we felt were the best, the ones that had the biggest impact on us and that we felt emotionally attached to. And we believe we have made a good choice.

“You have got about 75 minutes on a CD, so obviously you do have to make a choice, but we could perhaps do another CD. The original idea was to do the whole lot, and this CD has been incredibly well received. It has gone really well with some really nice reviews, and that makes a second CD more credible and it would probably mean that Chandos would be more interested.”

Gottfried Finger was a Moravian composer and virtuoso viol player. Arriving in England in 1685, Finger worked for the court of James II before becoming a freelance composer.

“He came to work in post-Restoration England after Charles II came back to the throne. There was a lot of work for musicians, and a lot of foreigners came and took advantage of this. But actually he had a slightly unhappy time. He took part in a composing competition in 1701. There were four contestants and he came fourth and last. He left the country in disgust saying that he had ‘thought to be judged by men, not boys.’ He thought he had been badly treated. I think the fact that he was a catholic was probably not in his favour. There were high suspicions that the competition had been rigged.”

Hazel, who lives in London, added: “Finger’s sonatas contain a quirky mix of styles. Bohemian features from his homeland, simpler Corellian traits, and the occasional nod to the English Purcellian school are fitted together like crazy paving. This is what gives them their unique charm. Many are made up of contrasting short sections rather than separate movements, sometimes linked by short passages for basso continuo alone, both features characteristic of the Biber school. Finger left a large number of sonatas for violin and basso continuo. We performed them all, immersing ourselves in the style, and this recording presents the finest selection from his output. Because he is known principally for his copious published recorder pieces, aimed at the amateur market, Finger has sometimes been dismissed as a composer of trivial, unadventurous music. I hope that this recording will help to change that mindset, so that Finger finally receives the recognition he deserves.”

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