Recording Finnissy and Matthews

Posted on December 2nd, 2010 by

Recording, Finnissy and Matthews. New Arrival from LeFanu 

 November 29th was a day of new music and snow. I spent the day with my friends in the Kreutzer Quartet, engineer Jonathan Haskell, and Michael Finnissy, recording in John the Baptist Church, Aldbury. At the beginning of the morning, the church boiler died, so we worked in temperatures around 7-8 degrees all day. But it didn’t matter-nothing was going to stop us having fun. The work on the stands, Michael Finnissy’s radiant 3rd Quartet. This was written for us last year, and we fell in love with it immediately. Although it is over 40 minutes long, and plays without a break, nothing could be more grateful, more inviting for the musician-if is full of glowing, sometimes Brucknerian harmonies, decked with glistening cobwebs of decoration, jaunty jigs, and finally loses itself in birdsong. 

Here is an outtake from the day, just a scrap from the workbench-the 8th section of the work:

Michael Finnissy-3rd Quartet outtake (29-11-10)-Kreutzer Quartet -PSS, Mihailo Trandafilovski, Morgan Goff, Neil Heyde-(Recording Courtesy of Jonathan Haskell (Astounding Sounds)) 

Filmmaker Colin Still working with Morgan Goff. St Bartholomew the Great. Summer 2010. Photo: Richard Bram


As we worked, I could not resist the idea that Finnissy and Giuseppe Tartini would have go on well. They both were/are equally fascinated with autonomous, self-sustaining harmonic and structural systems, rooted in the physicality and emotionality of sound itself, both in the imagination and reality. Here is Tartini’s 26th Sonata Piccola, recorded at St Bartholomew the Great last week-its glow was in my head all day while recording Finnissy- 

Tartini-Sonata 26 (Live recording 24-11-10-Courtesy of Colin Still (Optic Nerve)- 

Upon arriving back home last night, I found another delight awaited, the score of Nicola LeFanu’s new ‘Quartet no. 3’. I have had enormous fun talking with Nicola about this work in its final stages, and this is a hugely exciting arrival for all of us. She writes in the score: 

The original inspiration for the quartet came from some late works of Matisse, where basic shapes suggest transforming images: a leaf becomes a hand, or a flower a bird, and their repetitions are never exact but always slightly varied. As the music unfolded, I discover that (unlike the Matisse) light and shade were essentiall both the harmony and the texture create a ‘chiaroscuro’ through which the simple images of the opening emerge/My quartet is dedicated to the Kreutzer Quartet, whose playing I have admired for many years. 

Watch this space for news of the premiere. 

To finish up the day’s recording, I stayed behind and recorded three small gems by David Matthews. Here is one take, his ‘Not Farewell’ 

David Matthews-‘Not Farewell’ (Outtake) 

Nicola Lefanu at my desk in Wapping.