While Michael Finnissy, born in 1946, has become known as one of the UK’s most original voices, he began his career pursuing the dual career of a pianist and composer. As a performer he was associated with the virtuoso solo repertory, and Finnissy’s own creative development has been punctuated by significant piano works. The epic nine-movement solo cycle of English Country-Tunes (1977) established Finnissy internationally as a voice of originality and distinction. The History of Photography in Sound (1995–2001) is his magnum opus, lasting five-and-a-half hours, but hardly less important are his substantial contributions to the art of piano transcription inherited from the 19th century: the Verdi Transcriptions (1972–2005), and his bittersweet sets of Gershwin Arrangements (1975–88) and More Gershwin (1989–90).
Finnissy’s near-encyclopedic knowledge of art music, as well as many other genres such as blues and jazz, allows him to pay affectionate homage to the object of his consideration, before raising the threat of its distortion and corruption. For this new recording, Lukas Huisman’s own illuminating booklet essay identifies the ‘friction’ at the heart of Finnissy’s Gershwin: a combining of styles ‘in which both vocabularies flourish’, jazz and modernism. In most cases Gershwin’s famous melodies are, without serious alterations, recontextualized. The arrangements are rich and detailed with a polyphonic web that is filled with layers of meaning.
The results are consistently tense, funny and charming all at once. The composer himself has explained: ‘Tempo and harmony change from fast to slow, light to dark, and vice versa. Forceful sentiments become quite docile. Unbridled joy turns to melancholy. Blithe security is transformed into tense and upsetting ambiguity. Naïve grows cynical. Day changes into night, and girls become boys.’
Lukas Huisman is one of Belgium's foremost pianists specializing in unusual and often contemporary repertoire. His complete recording of the piano output by Toru Takemitu (PCL10147) has won international acclaim, including a 5* review on WDR3, 4* review in BBC Music Magazine, and was nominated for the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik.
Michael Finnissy is one of the most important post-war composers, known for his highly complex music and extreme demands on the performers.
In his two collections of Gershwin Arrangements Finnissy arranged many of the well-known songs for piano solo. Finnissy grew up often listening to LPs of this music, performed by popular singers as Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, and Ella Fitzgerald. On social occasions and in the jazz dance classes he accompanied early on in his career, he sometimes played these Gershwin songs. Some years later, this led to these wonderful compositions in which Gershwin’s famous melodies are, without serious alterations, recontextualized. The arrangements are rich and detailed with a polyphonic web that is filled with many layers of meaning.
As Finnissy states, the inversion of mood in so many of these movements is central to his approach: “Tempo and harmony change from fast to slow, light to dark, and vice versa. Forceful sentiments become quite docile. Unbridled joy turns to melancholy. Blithe security is transformed into tense and upsetting ambiguity. Naïve grows cynical. Day changes into night, and girls become boys.” (Finnissy, 2004).
Belgian pianist Lukas Huisman is one of the most remarkable and original pianists of his generation. From 2012 to 2016 he worked on an artistic doctoral project relating to contemporary complex solo piano music (Ferneyhough, Finnissy, Xenakis, Sorabji) at the School of Arts Ghent/University Ghent. He premièred Sorabji’s Symphonic Nocturne and recorded this monumental piece for solo piano on the Piano Classics label, for which he also recorded the piano music by Takemitsu, which was nominated for the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik.