This short orchestral work has been a favourite of mine since first hearing Sir Adrian Boult conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra on the old Lyrita vinyl back in 1977. It was the beginning of my discovery of the music of Gerald Finzi.
The Romance in Eb for string orchestra, Op.11 was written in 1928 when the composer was in his twenties. However it had to wait until 1952 to be published, after some revision by the composer. Diana McVeigh has written that this work is more 'light-hearted' than some of Finzi’s other orchestral pieces. She states that after a ‘pensive introduction, [it becomes] a lighter-hearted piece with a freshening lilt and fount of melody: and a robust climax clinched with the rhythmic figure common to the two themes.'
I.K. writing in Music & Letters in 1953 has written that 'Finzi's is an early short work of simple ternary design. It is easy to play and is a study in uninterrupted euphony. The music is reminiscent of Elgar in its doubled interior melodies, but it has far fewer accidentals than most of his.'
The Musical Times reporting in May 1954 states that:-
Gerald Finzi's Romance for strings was composed in 1928 though only recently published; it was even more recently first performed in London on 16 March [with the ] Montagu String Orchestra under Jeremy Montagu, Chelsea Town Hall. The reasons for the work's exhumation are not altogether apparent. Mr. Finzi's English allegiances may not have altered with the years, but certainly his later music discloses them more discreetly, and in not such naive stylistic terms. This early piece was no more than an autobiographical document, a record of Mr. Finzi's Elgarian ('Introduction and Allegro') sympathies; as such, it is a touching tribute, but not, perhaps, of marked musical significance.’
Whatever the critics may divine about this work, it is to my ears a lovely evocation of the mood of the English Landscape somewhere in the Severn Vale. It has a magic and near simple perfection that always moves me.
The Romance has been recorded a number of times, including by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with Vernon Handley and the Northern Sinfonia conducted by Howard Griffiths.
The YouTube version is by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Christopher Warren-Green. However, my personal favourite version will always be the Boult on Lyrita SRCD.239.