Marginality and Finnissian Performance in the 1980s

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In the late seventies Finnissy, sensing a dearth of opportunities for young British composers, began a period of concert performance (and advocacy of new work) that stretched through the 1980s and beyond, with a profound impact not only on the direction of his own music but on the composers and performers (and audiences) with whom he worked. His activities as a pianist coincided with the arrival at the British Music Information Centre of Roger Wright (currently Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival), who developed and promoted a series of salon concerts that took place in the Centre’s reading room at 10 Stratford Place in central London, a space in which Finnissy was a key figure. Reflecting on his time at the BMIC, Wright recalled that ‘there was an element of the work of the BMIC which […] slipped into the world of something which was, if not experimental, at least slightly off-centre.’

This curious in-between space provides the starting point in the proposed chapter for a wider consideration, for the first time, of Finnissy’s performance activities during the 1980s. Drawing on archival recordings, concert programmes, press reviews, and interviews conducted since 2007, I present a detailed (though not exhaustive) overview of Finnissy’s performance activity from his debut recital in Freiburg, 1977, to his performances of English Country-Tunes in 1986. With reference to selected concerts, a series of snapshots are offered which provide insights into Finnissy’s programming as a pianist, his collaboration with dancers and his extensive activities with ensembles. Of central importance here is what we might call ‘the politics of marginality’ during a decade which saw Finnissy attempt to distance himself from a growing interest in (and use of the name) ‘New Complexity’ which his performance and advocacy had done so much to support.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Perspectives on Michael Finnissy
Subtitle of host publicationBright Futures, Dark Pasts
EditorsIan Pace, Nigel McBride
Number of pages38
ISBN (Print)9781138491977
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameAshgate Studies in Theory and Analysis of Music after 1900


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