Finnissy: Traum des Sängers; WAM; Ének; Mars + Venus

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Traum des Sängers; WAM; Ének; Mars + Venus
PERFORMER: Charles Mutter (violin) Ixion/Michael Finnissy
The pieces that frame this mini-survey of Michael Finnissy’s instrumental writing in the early Nineties – the 1994 Traum des Sängers and Mars + Venus, composed a year earlier – both take paintings as their starting points, by Caspar David Friedrich and Peter Paul Rubens respectively. That is just one of the seeds of creativity running through this selection; Mozart provides another in WAM, for three instruments from 1991, in which the parts are assembled from fragments of early Mozart orchestral works, woven into textures that are characteristically knotty and turbulent. Then there is east European folk music, an abiding passion of Finnissy, providing the jumping-off point for the remarkably gripping Ének for solo violin (1990), inspired by a gypsy fiddler in Budapest, as well as liturgical chant from the Eastern church, which fuels one of the melodic layers in Traum des Sängers.


It’s a rich mix, always made coherent by Finnissy’s sure sense of musical scale and proportion. The menacingly shifting layers of Mars + Venus, and the gradual interpenetration and mutual dependency of the two instrumental groups in Traum move with real purpose and emotional power. Finnissy is a multi-faceted composer, sometimes perhaps too diverse for his own good, so that in comparison with some contemporaries of far more limited range and talent he can seem less convincing. All the pieces here, though, reward concentrated and careful attention. Andrew Clements