Tempo

With Ayâz-e Niyâz (2012) Finnissy continues the collaboration with Christopher Redgate already familiar from enterprises like Greatest hits of all time, and reaching back as far as Runnin ‘ wild (1978). At 55 minutes, and using the lupophon — a new kind of bass oboe — as well as the Howarth-Redgate twenty-first century oboe, with its extra high pitches and facility for multiphonics, the piece is an arche­typal Finnissy epic, one of whose objectives is to confront cosy Western cultural conventions with what the title, in Farsi, calls ‘songs from mysterious necessity’: or alternatively (Finnissy tells us) ‘mysterious prayerfulness’. Finnissy points out that ‘much of the inspiration … comes from the traditions of Persia: also, in con­siderable measure, from its traditional music, and from the manner of its performance, and even its overall aesthetic stance’.

As he further describes the piece, the struc­ture is impulsive, partly conflicting with, partly giving in to, a historically constructed need for some sort of variation or contrast’: this pinpoints the music’s demanding but ultimately persuasive struggle to achieve continuity while avoiding monotony. Beginning in a turbulent spirit not a million miles from the plangent wind-and-piano contest of Maxwell Davies’s Hymnos, it evolves into searchingly intense meditative regions only to explode finally into a kind of insistent ‘dark matter’ that survives for long enough to dissipate the more upbeat qualities of the relatively reticent musical atmosphere touched on in the work’s central stages.

Christopher Redgate’s technical command is astonishing throughout, and it is probably inten­tional that the piano sound in the Finnissy recording should seem relatively muted — though there is ample resonance when neces­sary, as at the end Redgate’s new oboe has an even more intensively multiphonic workout in Edwin Roxburgh’s pithy four-movement suite, which well conceals its Bachian origins in a somewhat surreal blend of impressionism and expressionism. But Finnissy dominates the disc, and his ‘mysterious prayerfulness’ seems in the end to leave behind the recreative specifics of instrumental design that provided his music’s initial impetus and to open up a vision of a kind of `world music’ highly personal to Finnissy but well worth the attention of listeners in any hemisphere — even disciples of Kant.

—Arnold Whittall