> FINNISSY Verdi Transcription MSVCD92027 [HC]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Michael FINNISSY (born 1946)
Piano Concerto No.6 (1980/1)
Snowdrift (1972)
Verdi Transcriptions : Books 1 & 2 (1972/88, rev. 1995)
To & Fro (1978, rev. 1995)
Piano Concerto No.4 (1978, rev. 1996)

Ian Pace (piano)
Recorded: Christís Hospital, Horsham, February 1998 and April 2000; Djanogly Hall, University of Nottingham, July 1998 and August 1998
METIER MSV CD92027 [76:02 + 70:49]




A brilliant pianist, Michael Finnissy has composed a great deal of piano music which includes several large-scale "cycles" such as English Country-Tunes (1977/82), Folklore (1993/4) and The History of Photography in Sound (1996/2000) of which I reviewed a "chapter" North American Spirituals (CRI CD 877) some time ago. This generously filled double CD set includes another similar large-scale work, the Verdi Transcriptions, composed between 1972 and 1988 with revisions in 1995. Finnissy explores Verdiís world, deconstructing and transforming Verdiís music often beyond recognition. Though the original impetus for this was an article by Busoni, Finnissyís approach goes much further than the Romantic opera fantasies as devised by many late 19th Century composers. The first six pieces of Book 1 are each an exploration of the keyboard. From then on, melodic writing is much more in evidence, though nothing is ever given and taken for granted. The concluding piece, both of Book 2 and of the whole cycle, is the toughest nut of the whole and also the longest movement lasting over 25 minutes. I do not know if a scholarly knowledge of Verdiís operas may enhance the experience derived from repeated hearings of Finnissyís work, but I know for sure that this is a formidable piece of music, difficult, very demanding on the performerís and the listenerís part but it is well worth the effort.

Between 1974 and 1981, Finnissy composed seven piano concertos, the Fourth and the Sixth being for solo piano following the model of Alkanís Concerto for Solo Piano but reflecting Finnissyís highly original piano writing. Piano Concerto No.4, written in 1978 and revised in 1995, is, according to Ian Paceís words, "the most manically virtuoso piece that Finnissy has ever written". Indeed it uses every pianistic technique "pushing out the boundaries of pianistic possibility". Piano Concerto No.6 (1980/1) is yet another large-scale piece playing for over 25 minutes, but is a quite different work than the Fourth Piano Concerto. The mood here is eerie, containing ghostlike passages and long, almost static sections, the latter particularly in evidence in the long coda to the piece.

The shorter works here, Snowdrift (1972) and To & Fro (1978, rev. 1995), are by no means lighter or easier works, but they provide some welcome contrast between the other long, absorbing pieces.

Ian Pace, who has a long association with Finnissyís piano music, is a dedicated and ideal performer of these complex and taxing pieces, some of which he has first performed, but the remarkable thing about Finnissyís piano writing is that he never writes AGAINST the instrument, never uses any "gimmicks" common to many modern piano works, but rather exploits the entire range of the keyboard to the full, often with stunning results. An enterprising release from METIER who have so far recorded a good deal of Finnissyís music and who now plan to record Folklore and the complete History of Photography in Sound, no less!

Hubert Culot

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