Finnissy: The History of Photography in Sound


Catalogue No: MSV 77501
EAN/UPC: 809730750120
Release Date: November 2013
Genres: ,
Discs: 5
Total Playing Time: 326:52
Sample: Alkan-Paganin (beginning)

The long awaited complete recording of Michael FInnissy’s epic, virtuosic, transcendental work is here. This formidable and highly challenging composition with its extremes of dynamic and textural range, imaginative and detailed phrasing and awesomely complex articulation is a magnum opus in every sense. Yet to those familar with Finnissy’s style and modern music it is a very accessible piece, with many inspirations from tonal sources, folk and ethnic music (including Africa and the Afro-American spiritual for example). A seminal and vital project consummately performed by Ian Pace who has contributed a splendid and scholarly essay to the booklet.

Extended essay on the History, its construction and performance, with numerous musical extracts:


Track Listing

    Michael Finnissy:

  1. I. The History of Photography in Sound – Le demon d’analogie (28:29)
  2. II. The History of Photography in Sound – Le reveil de l’intraitable realite (20:39)
  3. III. The History of Photography in Sound – North American Spirituals (23:41)
  4. IV. The History of Photography in Sound – My parent’s generation thought war meant something (35:48)
  5. V. The History of Photography in Sound – Alkan-Paganini (13:35)
  6. VI. The History of Photography in Sound – Seventeen Immortal Homosexual Poets (34:11)
  7. VII. The History of Photography in Sound – Eadweard Muybridge-Edvard Munch (26:29)
  8. VIII. The History of Photography in Sound – Kapitalische Realisme (67:42)
  9. IX. The History of Photography in Sound – Wachtend op de volgende uitbarsting van repressie en censuur (17:00)
  10. X. The History of Photography in Sound – Unsere Afrikareise (30:35)
  11. XI. The History of Photography in Sound – Etched bright with sunlight (28:40)



Finnissy’s command of the ebb and flow of both a dramatic narrative and musical argument incorporates a vast range of perspectives that ensure the piece is first and foremost a dialogue with the listener. Ian Pace’s commitment to bringing this work to life in this landmark recording – surely one of the most significant contemporary music releases of recent times – is simply awe-inspiring: pick a superlative, any superlative, and it might go some way to living up to this almost unbelievable achievement.

” —Simon Cummings
BBC Music Magazine

Endlessly fascinating, engaging, challenging, puzzling, beautiful, thought-provoking and charming. Pace’s intimate acquaintance with the totality of History is apparent in his commanding performance … this is a magnificent achievement for both composer and performer.

” —Christopher Dingle
Sunday Times

Both composer and executant here are truly prodigious figures. A vast compendium of virtuoso-pianistic and world-historical thought. It is hardly possible to comment significantly on such a phenomenon in a capsule review, but I heartily recommend this profoundly dedicated undertaking.

” —Paul Driver
International Record Review

Don’t look here for the banalities of programme music. This is a rare musical proposition which surely deserves to stand as one of the great pianistic statements of this or any age.

” —Roger Thomas

The music of English composer Michael Finnissy is difficult to categorize. It is excep­tionally multifaceted in both its surface and substance… The composer has given Pace’s performances and this recording his enthusiastic recommenda­tion, so it is to be assumed that the performance is definitive…. Pace brings to the project a true mastery of the composer’s interpretative challenges. The History stands as a major work of a major composer. For those who wish to take an unforgettable journey, this is a work, like much great art, that embraces everything and, in the process, tells us something about ourselves.

” —Carson Cooman
The Wire

Interpreted by Pace with superb dedication, Finnissy’s musical montage mixes autobiography with philosophical reflection and critique, quotation, sharp observation and personal conviction. Commenting self-reflexively upon the language of the piano, this intricately allusive music issues a committed challenge to our own responsiveness and literacy.

” —Philip Clark

Superb five-CD set of Finnissy’s colossal piano work… a major achievement and one that should appeal strongly to lovers of contemporary and piano music alike. It should be obvious that students or admirers of Finnissy in particular, and those interested in contemporary music in general, will want to get this full cycle … and it’s reasonably-priced. It’s hard to see how a more suitable and sympathetic performer could be involved. The acoustic is sympathetic and neither adds nor takes away anything from our necessary concentration on the music. This is a major release of a major project and one which should be investigated by as wide an audience as possible. Execution and presentation are as excellent as the music is compelling.

” —Mark Sealey

Photography as a retrospective score of our lives; but scores are open to interpretation. Finnissy keeps his cultural aperture forever wide-angled, ideas and sounds papped ferociously. Believe me, if you could see the score you’d grasp the scope of the enterprise. Ian Pace is Finnissy’s David Bailey, each note shaded to perfection, structures translucently and sharply lit, defining sonic images of our time.

” —Philip Clark
Sequenza 21

Clocking in at well over three hundred minutes in duration, Michael Finnissy’s eleven-movement cycle for solo piano is a gargantuan effort for both composer and performer. One cannot imagine a more heartfelt or technically skilful performance of this work. Finnissy’s musical language revels in a complex interplay of far flung reference points, ample virtuosity, and a penchant for pungent, dense harmonies and a coruscating rhythmic grid. If there is a through line to be found in the History of Photography in Sound, it is [Finnissy’s] spirit of generosity bestowing upon us all the many musical ideas Finnissy has to offer: and that’s quite a lot. Revel, wallow even, in the embarrassment of riches and abundant virtuosity on display here. This is a boxed set that is wholeheartedly recommended.

” —Christian B. Carey
Overgrown Path.Com

Superb interpretation … admirably comprehensive sleeve notes … persuasive advocacy of Michael Finnissy’s pioneering but always human music.

” —“Pliable”

Music is just notes – intent and understanding are transient… A photograph purports to be a fixed moment in time whereas … performed music spans time. Upon reflection, one realizes how strange it is that we routinely accept something written days, months or years ago as timely. In other words, attend to Finnissy’s gigantic opus with an open mind. Pace’s insight and devotion serve to make the work as much his as Finnissy’s.

” —Grant Chu Covell

Der 1946 geborene Michael Finnissy ist ein Komponist, der sich als Vertreter der ‚new complexity‘ bewusst gegen einfache Einordnungen sperrt, der durch die stark intellektuelle Ausprägung seiner Musik andererseits auch nicht selten der schriftlichen Erläuterung bedarf. So fällt bei der hier vorliegenden Produktion zuallererst in sehr umfangreiches Booklet (100 Seiten!, alle auf Englisch) auf, in […]

” —Jürgen Schaarwächter

Occupying a single disc, Kapitalistisch Realisme would be an incredible statement in its own right, let alone just one part of an entire cycle. With excellent sound and Ian Pace’s remarkable playing, this work is something which demands our attention and admiration.

” —Dominy Clements