Michael Finnissy was born in 1946 in London and has been active as a performer (pianist) and composer since the mid-1970s. He served as President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) from 1990-96, and is currently Professor of Composition at the University of Southampton.
His works are renowned for their demanding technical requirements, and often consist of transformative rearrangements of material by other composers: his Verdi Transcriptions for piano (1986) is one of the better-known examples. Finnissy has also completely reworked two sets of songs by George Gershwin for solo piano – Gershwin Arrangements and More Gershwin – and it is the first of these that is presented here in a new recording by Belgian pianist Dirk Herten. Thirteen famous songs, including How Long Has This Been Going On, Love is Here to Stay, Shall We Dance? and Embraceable You have been examined and dissected under the Finnissy microscope, with extremely rewarding results.
Spacious and delicately spikey, these arrangements are quite fascinating –Gershwin’s unmistakable melodies are instantly recognisable but embedded within new modernist frameworks that are at once compositionally sophisticated and completely accessible. Herten’s thoughtful and delicate reading prompted Finnissy himself to comment on its demonstration of a “delicately shaded super-awareness of all the harmonic details, and an amazing refined grasp of piano sonority and nuance.” The recording on Belgian label White is crisp but warm with plenty of breathing space. The CD packaging is minimal with no liner notes.