Attempting to do justice to Ian Pace’s recording of Michael Finnissy’s The History of Photography in Sound in a round-up of this nature would be foolhardy, so I’ll have to ask you to settle for barely articulate admiration. I’ll excuse this on the grounds that the 100-page book accompanying the discs contains a wealth of critical insight from Pace himself, long associated with the composer’s music and rightly praised for his previous Finnissy recordings. An expanded version of the text can be downloaded from the Metier website with no purchase necessary, which is a good way of discovering what you’ll be letting yourself in for.
Dating from 2001, this cycle of 11 solo piano pieces hangs all manner of considerations onto its theme, dealing with aesthetics, semiology and the composer’s life experiences in a musical quasi-narrative (don’t look here for the banalities of programme music) that places Finnissy’s complex personal style alongside excursions into other musical territories altogether. The cycle was originally conceived as being performable either in its entirety or as extracts, but I recommend adopting the former approach, and listening to the whole ‘meta-piece’ in one sitting, partly to allow the musical arguments to unfold in their own context but also because our individual experience of time then becomes an aspect of the work itself.
This is a rare musical proposition which surely deserves to stand as one of the great pianistic statements of this or any age.