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Ross Lee FINNEY (1906-1997)
Fantasy in two movements for solo violin (1958) [20:20]
Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (1951) [12:35]
Sonata No. 3 in A for violin and piano (1954) [19:59]
Fiddle-doodle-ad: Eight American Folk Tunes for violin and piano (1945) [8:47]
Miranda Cuckson (violin)
Thomas Sauer (piano)
rec. 12-13 November 2004, Patrych Sound Studios, NY. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2757 [63:48]

Minnesota-born Finney worked with Berg in Vienna in 1931 and 1932. It was a tipping point though he may not have realised it at the time. In any event it was the trigger for a composer whose seed corn was traditional and nationalistic to have changed his idiom to serialism by the 1950s. Cause and effect? Who knows? In any event the first work on the disc is the latest and is certainly serially orientated. It was written for Menuhin who played it at the Brussels International Exposition. Across its two movements the music has carefully picked out Bachian angularity, flights of virtuosic fantasy and fits of aggression. It is most sensitively and brilliantly played. Serialism is a gentle and modest presence in the Second Violin Sonata. One is conscious of the composer being pulled between the two polarities of lyricism and serialism. The most extreme and eloquent example of this is in the third movement Tenderly but with passion. The Third Sonata radiates a greater sense of sonata-form unity than its variegated and suite-like predecessor. Written in 1954, like No. 2 it was part of a series of works dedicated to members of the Stanley Quartet. Interesting that Finney’s fast movements are often headlong and have a ruthless witchery about them – perhaps the influence of Bartok. The severity we heard in the Fantasy is again heard in the Adagio sostenuto con variazioni with its grim-set defiance being to the fore. After three works of grit or severity Fiddle-doodle-ad provides welcome relief with no shame in the sampler sentiment on show and a warm tear in the eye. The high-piping The Nightingale is a real showpiece and so is the slow blooming – almost Holstian - Oh, Lovely appearance of death. These pieces can be heard with their innate dignity intact – not a shadow of gingham, thank heavens! Superb, sparkling work from Cuckson and Sauer.

There are extensive notes by Miss Cuckson.

Finney’s music: severe, fantastic and not averse to sparkle; superbly played and recorded.

Rob Barnett


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