Michael Finnissy - Verdi transcriptions:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4fsY6f7AeA
These pieces are, and quite obviously from the start, not simply about Verdi. They form a critique of a musical culture which is over-saturated in its past. About a world which is cushioning itself in mythology as an alternative to addressing the present. How? By dissection, analysis, parody and by self-dramatised intent.
Verdi is an emotional and political artist, perhaps not always as sophisticated as some, but always and sometimes abrasively honest, and – in case there is any doubt about it – I have loved his music deeply since I first encountered it in my late teens. This cycle employs material from all of Verdi’s operas (some more than once), from his String Quartet and from the opening section of his Requiem.
The work is divided into four sequences, each containing nine ‘transcriptions’. The second of these sequences is dedicated to Stephen Pruslin, the third to Marilyn Nonken and the fourth to Jonathan Powell.
They are called ‘transcription’ not only in deference to the nineteenth century ‘tradition’ of virtuosic pianism (amply elucidated by Busoni), but also because each one is written ‘through’ rather than mapped out, the nine sub-sections of each sequence are designedly continuous, rather than self-contained entities.
The operas are arranged in chronological order, and each of the four sequences has roughly the same shape. The opening transcription of each sequence occurs in ever higher registers of the piano keyboard, the fifth of each sequence turns Verdi’s original into a cantus firmus (located alternately in the left and right hands). A rapid and staccato ‘scherzando’ section is placed near the beginning of each, and an extended ‘fantasia’ occupies a fairly central position in all four sequences.
The material is treated with the same flexibility and subjectivity as the folk-music in Folklore, and as in that work the conventions and attitudes which have shaped our current (maybe ‘my current’) notions of music (either ethnic or Verdian) are part of the dialectic and stucture (as Pasolini remarked of his Saint Matthew, that is drew from the original gospel PLUS the intervening two thousand years of Christianity).
This work was started in 1972 and completed in 2005.