The British composer and pianist Michael Finnissy (born 1946) set about to complete Edvard Grieg’s piano quintet in B-major EG. 118 in the composer’s style: it only exists as fragments. In parallel he worked on a second, his own quintet arrangement which is also based on Grieg’s fragment. In the latter he could accommodate all his ideas, which would have been unthinkable in a arrangement by Grieg, himself and was able to look at the fragment from a totally different angle. In 1892 Edvard Grieg (1843–1907) noted about 250 measures of the piano quintet in his sketch book, based on the information in the booklet. The monothematic exposition by Michael Finnissy sounds structurally similar to sonata movements by Johannes Brahms or César Franck. The recording by Roderick Chadwick (piano) and the Kreutzer Quartet released in 2013 by Metier Records is the first and only recording to date.
The booklet, in English, presents an interesting insight into the musical work by and with Michael Finnissy, in part from the composer‘s perspective, in part from the perspective of Peter Sheppard Skaerved, founder and leader of Kreutzer Quartet. The musicians and the composer had previously worked together for the premiere of the final version during the Bergen International Festival in 2013.
Due to the limited extend of the fragments, Michael Finnissy decided against a piece with multiple movements instead choosing the form of a chamber symphony with a single movement. The results are definitely worth listening to; in my opinion he succeeded in empathizing with Grieg’s style. The lyrical, melancholic passages in particular could have originated from the Norwegian composer.
The dissonant treatment of Michael Finnissy’s ‘Grieg-Quintettsatz’ differentiates it from Grieg‘s original style. Apart from the fragments, the composer was inspired by Norwegian folk music and clearly perceptible are influences of Wagner. While the beginning of the piece is still harmonically and melodically influenced by the music of the romantic era, it then drifts further and further from the initial starting point.
The sound quality falls short of expectation, as it renders all instruments dull and matte. Some passages unfortunately become fully blurred, both pieces lack expression and brilliance. Especially the fast note changes in the string parts, but also sustaining notes turn into an unattractive, little differentiated mushy sound. * *[we accept and respect reviewers’ opinions: but as no-one else mentioned this, and the recording was made by the same highly regarded team which has engineered many others, we question how the reviewer listened to the album: indeed the IRR reviewer, calling the recording well-balanced, remarked that to him the strings were a little harsh – the OPPOSITE of what Ms Jushke says ]