Composer Michael Finnissy to perform at Skaņu Mežs 2016


British composer and pianist Michael Finnissy will give a performance at the „Skaņu mežs” festival for adventurous music in Riga, Latvia on October 14. The programme of the concert will consist of his own works. Venue: music hall „Daile”.
Michael Finnissy was a Foundation Scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, where he studied composition with Bernard Stevens and Humphrey Searle, and piano with Edwin Benbow and Ian Lake. Afterwards he studied in Italy with Roman Vlad.

Finnissy created the music department of the London School of Contemporary Dance and has been an associated composer with many British Dance Companies, including London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Ballet Rambert, Strider and Second Stride. He has taught at Dartington Summer School, Winchester College, the junior department of the Royal College of Music, Chelsea College of Art and is guest lecturer at many colleges and universities. He has also been musician in residence to the Victorian College of Arts and to the City of Caulfield in Australia and for the East London Late Starters Orchestra. He currently teaches at the University of Southampton.

He is a prolific composer and his exploration of a wide range of music (especially folk music) is combined with a fascination for mathematical structures. This interplay between ideas, on the one hand symbolizing the innocent, unconditional response to music-making and the other rigorous, intellectual processes, frequently creates an emotional quality in his work – one that is hard to define as it draws on contrasts. The shifts in balance between these two aspects has given rise to a variety of works ranging from the “complex” pieces where rhythmically independent melodies are piled on top of each other, fragmented and decorated, to compositions which focus on the quality of a single line given the simplest of accompaniments.


As a pianist he is particularly associated with the commissioning and performing of new British work: composers who have written pieces specially for him include Elizabeth Lutyens, Judith Weir, James Dillon, Oliver Knussen, Nigel Osborne, Chris Newman, Howard Skempton and Andrew Toovey.
In 1990 Finnissy was appointed President of the International Society of Contemporary Music. He was re-elected in 1993 and in 1998 was made an honorary member of the ISCM.

He presents his biography in the following words: „I was born in London in 1946. My father was a surveyor and photographer, at that time documenting the rebuilding of the city after the war. There was no professional music-making in the family. I was self-taught (listening to the radio) until, aged 18, I won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music: my principal teacher, Bernard Stevens, asked if my parents were independently wealthy. No, they were working people. He told me that my life was going to be very difficult. Michael Tippett told me, much later, that life, for a composer in England, was like crossing a desert without a map. But, if you need to do something you find a way to do it. Music is Life: in all its beauty and horror, both clear and also mysterious, questions sometimes without answers.”
Thanks to Finnissy’s music and teaching activities, he is considered to be one of the key figures in the so-called „new complexity” movement (often mentioned in this context alongside fellow composer Brian Ferneyhough), although he disapproves of this term.
This year, Finnissy celebrates his 70th birthday.

Mr. Finnissy’s performance will consist of the following works:
Green Meadows [No.1 from ‘English Country-Tunes’ 1977];
Coro: Patria oppressa! Il dolce nome…(Macbeth 1847 version);
Romanza: O cieli azzuri…Aïda [Nos.11 and 30 from ‘Verdi Transcriptions’ 1972-2006];
Love is here to stay (first and unpublished version) [Gershwin Arrangements 1976];
Nashville Nightingale [More Gershwin 1988];
Folklore I (1991-92);
Don’t let this harvest pass – Sinner, please (2014-15)

This will be the 14th edition of Skaņu Mežs – the festival will happen on October 13-15 as well as November 12 and October 16 in Daugavpils.

Tickets to the festival can be purchased here:

The Skaņu Mežs festival is supported by the “Creative Europe” programme of the European Union, Ministry of Culture of Latvia, State Culture Capital Foundation, the Municipality of Riga, the Goethe-institut Riga, Trust for Mutual Understanding and Kulturkontakt Nord as well as iRobot and Red Bull Music Academy.


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