Unknown Ground


Catalogue No: MSV 28536
EAN/UPC: 809730853623
Artists: ,
Release Date: April 2013
Genres: ,
Discs: 1
Total Playing Time: 78:22

Music by Michael Finnissy, all first recordings of major works. The album takes its name from the song cycle in which Finnissy has set words, arranged by himself, from various individuals relating their personal experiences living in fear of AIDS – the ‘Unknown Ground’, superbly sung by Richard Jackson (published by Oxford University Press). The work is accompanied by two chamber pieces the first of which relates to Kant’s work of the same name. Both are much more approachable than Finnissy’s reputation for ‘hard’ music might suggest: smooth textures, ethereal passages and altogether work which is meant to reach deep into the psyche. An excellent introduction to the compositions of one of Britain’s most respected modern composers.

Track Listing

    Michael Finnissy:

  1. Kritik der Urteilskraft (27:56)
  2. Unknown Ground (25:49)
  3. A Propos de Nice (22:21)



Unknown Ground has been well described as ‘one of the most passionately unequivocal works in the Finnissy catalogue’. With the peerless Richard Jackson … subtly inflected melodic writing … These fine, lucidly recorded performances have been worth the wait.

” —Arnold Whittall
American Record Guide: American Record Guide Critics' Choice 2013

The first piece on the record, Kritik der Urteilskraft (Critique of Judgement), is a direct refer­ence to the work of Kant. The harmonies are certainly not tonal, but neither are they dodecaphonic. One could hardly call this music over-written, but it is also far from a minimalist kind of aesthet­ic. It feels as though there is a mature restraint. [A Propos de Nice] has an anti-narrative struc­ture, fragmented and unnerving sometimes. One must come to terms with a moment-to-moment style of listening to appreciate its beauty. The title piece, Unknown Ground, is the high point of the album. It is a power­ful work by the English composer, played and sung with dedication. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE CRITICS’ CHOICE 2013

” —George Adams

Unknown Ground, completed in 1990, is as brutally down-to-earth as a song cycle can be… concerned with the anguish and suffering of gay men, with the spectre of AIDS a dreadful, Damoclean omnipresence. Even for Finnissy, always a fearless composer, it’s brave to explore musically words that are not merely tragic, but defeated. Yet their quietness intimates an all-powerful, boundless rage and fury that’s heartrendingly real and immediate and authentic and true. Richard Jackson’s performance is simply astonishing; the occasional resemblance of his voice to Peter Pears only adds extra emotional weight to the multiple layers of exposed, open wounds; and the New Music Players are impeccable in their understanding of when, and to what extent, to keep their distance. The other two works on the disc are non-vocal but equally substantial. it took ten years for this CD to see light of day, but it was worth the wait, a disc demonstrating both the rawness and convolution of Finnissy’s musical language.

” —Simon Cummings
International Record Review

Michael Finnissy has been served well by Divine Art. His sometimes simplistic, sometimes ultra-complex music tackles serious issues. Performances from the New Music Players under director Ed Hughes are all any composer could desire.

” —Michael Round
Composition Today

Kritik der Urteilskraft is all restraint and fabulously beautiful long textures,.Unknown Ground is a moving setting, the emphasis always on the text Aprpos de Nice provides an often-jaunty contrast to the other two pieces. It is not easy music to get to know, but it is worth the effort. For those unfamiliar with [Finnissy’s] language, the disc is a good place to start.

” —Christian Morris