Gramophone

The evolution of post-war music, we are persistently told, has been etched around ideological clashes between tonality and atonality, but this disc [and others in a joint review] prove that assumption to be a lame simplification – the rearguard action of composers foraging around in the harmonic fault lines has been important too.

Michael Finnissy’s pieces jam material and structure together into a comparably dissonant alliance (to those of Eric Craven also reviewed here] albeit arrived at via different compositional strategies. Craven’s hall of mirrors is hallucinogenic, Finnissy shatters the glass.

‘Mississippi Hornpipes’ severs the arteries of tonality, American folk-fiddle theme collages, a process Finnissy equates to William Burroughs’s literary cut-up technique. His Violin Sonata is a more intentionally composed realization of that same principle that riffs off the structural inner workings of Brahms’s String Quintet, Op. 88, the momentum of discontinuity rubbing against what Finnissy terms ‘a set of ongoing variations’.

—Philip Clark