Completely unlike the tinkling bells which announce Berio’s divergences from Schubert, no herald indicates where Grieg ends and Finnissy begins. Finnissy follows on seamlessly from Grieg’s 234th bar to produce a sturdy 27-minute “chamber symphony,” adding scherzo-like material followed by a tranquil section and then reshaping Grieg’s ingredients into a summary and conclusion. The pulse drops immensely in the slower area, almost to immobility. As a single edifice, it may prove daunting, despite a catchy cadential sequence which signals the exposition’s end and Finnissy’s coda.
In parallel, Finnissy borrowed Grieg’s material and ethos for a long winding stroll and created his Grieg Quintettsatz. If these were on opposing sides of the same LP, I could imagine a DJ making a programming mistake, confusing one for the other, as Finnissy kneads identical Scherzo material into both and indulges in Romantic lushness curiously absent from the Grieg completion. Finnissy permits the folk material to be more indigenous in his rhapsody, even though the Grieg-ish thread frequently evaporates: “I was also reminding myself of Grieg’s influence on Grainger, on Debussy and Ravel, even as remembered by John Cage.” The conclusion is unexpectedly severe. Despite exceeding the half-hour mark, I wish Finnissy had taken the coda’s startling new gestures around the block a few more times.
Chadwick and the Kreutzer Quartet effortlessly navigate Grieg and Finnissy’s real and fanciful worlds. Would Finnissy attempt the same with another “old Norwegian cheese,” Grieg’s unfinished F-major String Quartet from 1891?