Michael Finnissy


Born: March 17, 1946
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. 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.

There are 52 Michael Finnissy recordings available.

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