Gerald Finzi was born on July 14, 1901, in London, and lived his early years there. Finzi's father died when he was seven years old, and after the First World War broke out, he moved to Harrogate, Yorkshire, with his mum. Finzi was able to learn composition with composer Ernest Farrar and Edward Bairstow at York Minster beginning in 1917. Finzi relocated to Painswick, Gloucestershire, in 1922, drawn by the charm of the English countryside, where he was able to write in peace. 'By Footpath and Stile' (1921-22), a song cycle for baritones and string quartet set to texts by Thomas Hardy, whose work Finzi loved, was his first published work. However, the rural and artistic loneliness became too much for him, and in 1926 he returned to London to study with RO Morris, one of the greatest British professors of the interwar years. He also met Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose presence he was still quick to recognize and who performed Finzi's Violin Concerto in 1928. Holst, Bliss, Rubbra, and Ferguson – who would become a lifelong companion – were among the other London acquaintances. Finzi was hired as a teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in 1930, but he left in 1933 after marrying artist Joy Black and returning to the country, to Aldbourne, Wiltshire. A full presentation of the song cycle "A Young Man's Exhortation" (1926-29), his first notable success in London, took place the same year. It, along with another early hit, ‘Earth, Air, and Rain' (1928-32), cemented his reputation as a masterful and compassionate poet. The outbreak of World War II quickly derailed his promising future, resulting in the cancellation of the Three Choirs Festival's song cycle "Dies Natalis" (1925-39). It was a success that should have catapulted him into the spotlight earlier. The Finzi's relocated to Ashmansworth Farm in Hampshire in 1939.
Gerald Finzi was enlisted into the Ministry of War Transport during the war years and opened his home to a host of German and Czech refugees. He created the Newbury String Players, which began with local amateurs and resurrected much-forgotten 18th-century string music while also premiering works by his contemporaries. With the establishment of peace, Finzi won a slew of significant commissions, including a festival anthem, ‘Lo, The Complete, Final Sacrifice' (1946-47); a larger-scale ode, ‘For St Cecilia' (1946-47); a Clarinet Concerto (1948-49) for Frederick Thurston, which is probably his best-known work; and his masterpiece, ‘Intimations of Eternity' (1938-50), for Finzi, on the other hand, discovered in 1951 that he had Hodgkin's Disease, a form of leukemia, and that he had between five and ten years to live. His practices, especially those performed for other composers, were unaffected by the discovery. In the 1930s, he had championed Ivor Gurney, and his contributions persisted. He also collaborated on Hubert Parry's compositions and edited William Boyce's overtures for Musica Britannica. In 1954, an all-Finzi concert at the Royal Festival Hall recognized his importance in British culture. The Cello Concerto, Finzi's most ambitious, solely instrumental piece, was commissioned by Sir John Barbirolli for the 1955 Cheltenham Festival. Finzi eventually succumbed to his disease and died on September 27, 1956. The night before he died, his Cello Concerto was broadcast for the first time. His music is also widely appreciated and praised today. From elegiac lyricism to mystical meditation to sparkling joy, it encompasses a wide range of moods. The deaths of his father, three siblings, and a teacher, in particular, initiated the concept of fragility and transience, which was discussed in several subsequent books. His oeuvre, which includes more than 100 songs for soloist or choir, solidifies him as one of the most influential British composers of the twentieth century.