Mississippi Hornpipes – Michael Finnissy’s Music for Violin and Piano


Catalogue No: MSV 28545
EAN/UPC: 809730854521
Artists: ,
Release Date: September 2014
Discs: 1
Total Playing Time: 61:57

Finnissy’s work is never easy – he has a reputation for being at the difficult end of the New Complexity school – but that does no justice to the amazing depth of inspiration, from literary, folksong, cultural and many other sources, and the skill and virtuosity required of the performers. At Metier, the fact that we consider Michael Finnissy to be among the best of the best of today’s composers is evidenced in that this is our 11th album devoted to his work. Here we have his complete (to date) music for violin and piano, demonstrating not only the above characteristics but also in several works his wry, sardonic sense of humour and willingness not to be to serious even in serious music – witness the wild miniature ‘Jive’ and also ‘Molly House’ – a startling and irrepressible ‘kit’ of conventionally scored sections together with less conventional stuff including several unpitched ‘instruments’.

Track Listing

    Michael Finnissy:

  1. Mississippi Hornpipes (9:49)
  2. Seterjentens Fridag (8:04)
  3. Amphitheatre des Sciences Mortes (8:05)
  4. Jive (0:31)
  5. Molly House (12:45)
  6. I. Violin Sonata – I (10:57)
  7. II. Violin Sonata – II (11:33)



“Disorientation is a recurring trait in Michael Finnissy’s output generally, not only due to collisions of style and aesthetic but in the way different parts or materials relate to one another, a quality particularly audible in the works on Metier’s most recent Finnissy disc, Mississippi Hornpipes, exploring various works for violin and piano. The title work is a highly engaging, rapid progression through a huge number of episodes, so rapid that the joins are often difficult to discern. The connectivity between the instruments to an extent moves in and out of phase but behaviourally they’re clearly united. [Molly House] is easily one of the composer’s most engagingly entertaining pieces, Morgan, Dullea and Finnissy are all clearly having a whale of a time in this delirious performance.”

” —Simon Cummings
American Record Guide

Michael Finnissy’s Mississippi Hornpipes has remarkable variety. Finnissy’s style is typified by a slipperiness of phrase, melody, and shape that makes one listen closely. His play with timbres is also very effective. I’m glad to add this Finnissy record to my collection.

” —George Adams
The Strad

In the first of this album’s radically inventive transformations of older material, Michael Finnissy shoots dissonance and violence into the veins of folk tunes from America’s Deep South. Molly House is a private little orgy of denatured Baroque gestures for violin, prepared keyboards and domestic appliances, which like other pieces here comes to an informal stop. With the composer’s useful booklet note to hand, it’s easy to hear how a generously Brahmsian dialectic lies behind the Violin Sonata (2007). Recorded up close, the performances by Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea want for nothing in technical address, commitment and exhilaration. Best of all, they find the fun in Finnissy.

” —Peter Quantrill
The Rambler

Morgan and Dullea do a superb job with razor-sharp articulation. [The Sonata] has that surreal, hallucinatory quality of much of Finnissy’s music. Métier have released some landmark recordings of Finnissy’s music in the past, and this is a worthy addition.

” —Tim Rutherford-Johnson

The evolution of post-war music, we are persistently told, has been etched around ideological clashes between tonality and atonality, but this disc proves that assumption to be a lame simplification – the rearguard action of composers foraging around in the harmonic fault lines has been important too. ‘Mississippi Hornpipes’ severs the arteries of tonality, American folk-fiddle theme collages, a process Finnissy equates to William Burroughs’s literary cut-up technique.

” —Philip Clark

Violinist Darragh Morgan and pianist Mary Dullea play with cheeky verve, creating bright, crackling sonorities. Even those who experience difficulty in forging emotional connections to Finnissy’s compositions should be able to admire the composer’s quirky insight, the brilliance of the textures the performers have created, and the fidelity with which the recorded sound has captured them. Recommended.

” —Robert Maxham
International Record Review

Metier’s invaluable documentation of works by Michael Finnissy continues … all [the pieces] exhibit Finnissy’s exhilarating gift for treating a score as if it was a performance in itself; his music fizzes with gymnastic vitality.

” —Roger Thomas
The Chronicle

This is music for violin and piano and it’s in the experimental section of the record store. Finnissy takes tunes, breaks them down into non-musical bits and then re-assembles them; sometimes the instruments combine to create a pattern, sometimes they don’t. He’s approaching it with some wit though … it is surprisingly melodic.

” —Jeremy Condliffe