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Finnissy: Gershwin Arrangements / Nicholas Hodges

Release Date: 07/06/2004 
Label:  Metronome   Catalog #: 1063   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Michael Finnissy
Performer:  Nicolas Hodges
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Michael Finnissy is a leading figure of the British avant-garde music scene, but he seems to have a fascination with American music, based on my two most recent encounters with him, as chronicled in Fanfare. His large solo piano work “North American Spirituals” was included in Marilyn Nonken’s dazzling CRI release “American Spiritual.” Employing a kind of dreamy, modernistic impressionism, that fascinating piece borrows from African-American spirituals, including Steal Away, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Go Down, Moses, and Oh, By and By, embedding their melodies in a personalized harmonic language that seems to pay homage to the gentle complexity of Milton Babbitt (another American).

Something similar happens in these
Read more “Gershwin Arrangements.” The original melodies are always recognizable, but are vamped upon to various degrees. Finnissy employs a kind of stream of consciousness, written down improvisational manner that seems inspired by a completely sincere love of the wonderful music of Gershwin. The original music may come on strongly and fade into a haze (Love is here to stay) or gradually sneak out of a polytonal maze of music (Things are looking up). One of the most interesting reworkings (and the longest) is of Embraceable You. Finnissy plays on Gershwin’s lovely, poetic bending of harmony, essentially going him one better, as the famous melody weaves through a chromatic progression, finally landing with a bittersweet resolution of counterpoint. That fugal sensibility occurs often in Finnissy’s vision of Gershwin, but it is a reflection of the original music, which, despite Tin Pan Alley roots, is naturally sophisticated. “More Gershwin” carries the distortions a little farther, although the outlines of the music are still there. In some cases, such as for Wait a Bit, Susie, Finnissy comments on the style of the music more than the substance.

You can be sure that many traditional Gershwin-lovers will not appreciate the manner of Finnissy’s devotion. An open mind and repetitive listening enhances one’s understanding of this process, and at best, Finnissy has some profound insights into Gershwin’s music. Nicolas Hodges plays this daunting pile of notes, 22 song arrangements in all, with great spirit and skill.

Peter Burwasser, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Gershwin Arrangements by Michael Finnissy
Performer:  Nicolas Hodges (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975-1988; England 
Length: 49 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's, Bristol, England (12/06/1999 - 12/07/1999); St. George's, Bristol, England (06/20/2000 - 06/21/2000) 
More Gershwin by Michael Finnissy
Performer:  Nicolas Hodges (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990/1998; England 
Length: 30 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's, Bristol, England (12/06/1999 - 12/07/1999); St. George's, Bristol, England (06/20/2000 - 06/21/2000) 

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