Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Traum des Sängers; WAM; Mars+Venus; Ének
Ixion/Michael Finnissy with Charles Mutter (violin)
NMCD043 [54 min]
  Amazon US

The Ixion Ensemble has long been associated with the music of Michael Finnissy (b 1946). This CD is reckoned to be 'the best possible introduction to the music of one of Britain's most distinctive compositional talents' (Gramophone 1999) and is reviewed now in connection with his conducting an Ixion concert at The Warehouse in the BMIC Cutting Edge series, attended by Seen&Heard. Finnissy is also a virtuoso pianist and an important teacher of many of the British composers now active. During the 1990s he served as President of the International Society of Contemporary Music.

Traum des Sängers (1994), dedicated to Andrew Toovey, has four strings representing a sleeping minstrel, with guitar, clarinet and vibraphone conveying the 'imagined world' of his dreams; a piece of exceptional beauty, romantic and melodic, with small solos for each instrument and an enigmatic ending punctuated with long pauses. For me (not a complete Finnissy devotee) this was the most haunting music of his I had heard since the Tunbridge Wells première of his String Trio, with its framework derived from Mahler [Etcetera ETC KTC 1096].

WAM is an assemblage of (very) distorted fragments from Mozart's early music, a debunking of the assumption that he was consistently 'great'. Mars+Venus (1993) is a tough, very dissonant piece for larger ensemble, dealing with 'the atavistic forces of war and love present in ordinary people'. Violinist Charles Mutter is well suited to Finnissy's Ének, based on Hungarian gypsy gestures & intervallic vocabulary, and first played by Maxim Vengerov at the 1990 Carl Flesch International Violin Competition in London. Some British music aficionado may find this piece an easier way into this composer's elusive sound world.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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