Michael Finnissy



Born: March 17, 1946; Tulse Hill, London  
Michael Finnissy is a composer known for his imaginative, eclectic style and sometimes controversial advocacy of political and cultural ideas within his musical works. One often finds sympathy for gay-related issues or Christian spirituality or progressive political ideas in his compositions. Some have classed Finnissy's style under the umbrella of the so-called New Complexity movement, mostly found in the U.K., but he disavows such a connection. Read more His music can be challenging, with textures of multiple layers, and use of microtonal harmonies and complex rhythms. Yet Finnissy often employs thread-bare resources: unison writing, simple melody lines and harmonies, or other fairly uncomplicated expressive means. Thus, his music is typically a mixture of the complex and the elementary. His large output includes keyboard, solo vocal, choral, orchestral, chamber, and various dramatic works, including for the theater. As a pianist Finnissy is a virtuoso often identified with the music of Liszt and other challenging Romantic and post-Romantic repertory. But as a recording artist he has promoted, beside his own compositions, sonatas and other works by Chris Newman, and an assortment of compositions by Howard Skempton, Judith Weir, and Laurence Crane. Finnissy has recorded for Nmc, Metier, Mode, and Etcetera.

Michael Finnissy was born in Tulse Hill, London, England, on March 17, 1946. He began playing the piano before his fifth birthday, his teacher then his aunt, Rose Louise Hopwood. Finnissy started composing around the same time, also under her guidance.

His earliest surviving works date to about 1962, when he worked on some of his tangos for piano and songs for both orchestra and chamber ensemble. From 1965-1968 Finnissy studied piano at the Royal College of Music with Ian Lake and Edwin Benbow, and composition with Humphrey Searle and Bernard Stevens. Under scholarship auspices he had further composition studies in Italy under Roman Vlad.

Finnissy debuted in Europe in 1969 at the Amsterdam-based Gaudeamus Music Week. He began teaching composition at the Dartington Summer School in the mid-'70s and thereafter taught mainly at London's Royal Academy of Music, Winchester College, University of Sussex, Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven in Belgium, and from 1999 he has served as professor of composition at Southampton University.

From 1990-1996 Finnissy was president of the International Society for Contemporary Music. Among his works is the massive 2007-2008 stage work Mankind, for vocal soloists, several choruses, chamber ensemble, piano, organ, and ripieno children's orchestra. Read less
Browse 1-4 of 4 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Coates: String Quartets Nos. 1-9 / Kreutzer Quartet
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8503240 Release Date: 08/28/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Gloria Coates
    Performer:  Peter Sheppard Skaerved,  Bridget Carey,  Gordon Mackay,  Neil Heyde  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Finnissy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kreutzer String Quartet
    CD: $23.99
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  • 2.
    Darmstadt Aural Documents Box 1: Composers - Conductors
    Label: Neos   Catalog: 11060 Release Date: 11/30/2010   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Spoken Word,  Earle Brown,  René Leibowitz,  Wolfgang Fortner  ... 
    Performer:  Earle Brown,  Kurt Redel,  Rose Stein,  Rudolf Klamand  ... 
    Conductor:  Earle Brown,  René Leibowitz,  Wolfgang Fortner,  Ernst Krenek  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Internationales Kammerensemble Darmstadt,  Ungarisches Kammerensemble Budapest,  Ensemble Köln  ... 
    On sale! $81.98
    CD: $78.49
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  • 3.
    Michael Finnissy: This Church / Ixion, Richard Jackson, Etc
    Label: Metier   Catalog: 92069 Release Date: 03/30/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Michael Finnissy
    Performer:  Michael Finnissy,  Philip Adams,  Jane Money,  Richard Jackson
    Conductor:  Michael Finnissy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Mary de Haura Church Choir,  St. Mary de Haura Handbell Ringers
    CD: $14.99
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  • 4.
    Finnissy: Mars + Venus, Etc / Finnissy, Mutter, Ixion
    Label: Nmc   Catalog: 43 Release Date: 01/13/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Michael Finnissy
    Performer:  Charles Mutter
    Conductor:  Michael Finnissy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ixion Ensemble
    CD: $18.99
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