Mr Douglas Finch
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- Score Trinity Laban REF output – Landscape VI – Trio for Piano, Clarinet and Cello 2016 https://www.mymusicfriends.com/concert/93 https://soundcloud.com/douglasfinch/landscape-vi-trio-for-clarinet-cello-and-piano-2016 https://soundcloud.com/douglasfinch/douglas-finch-landscape-vi-trio-for-clarinet-cello-and-piano-2016/s-FZZtOZPklH9 The ‘landscape’ genre I’ve developed since 1994 focuses on proportion, timbre and texture – influenced by spectral aesthetics but deliberately avoiding notational and instrumental extensions. The harmonic language is pantonal, with overlapping pentatonic cells creating rows that modulate across the octave – e.g.: bar 1: Fsharp-E-D-A-G; bar 5-6: G-F-C-Aflat-Eflat; etc – with G as the pivotal note linking the cells. Melodic lines unfold like Xenakis’ arborescences (Evryali, Khoaï-Zoai), but relying more on quasi-improvisational exploration than stochastic processes to achieve a sense of harmonic floating. Phrases are arranged in loose recurrences, like reflections altered and diffused by rippling water, and are offset by decaying piano resonance or silence. The resulting stasis is reminiscent of Feldman (Piano, Palais de Maris) where the natural decay of piano sonorities is a primary expressive element. Aesthetically, the intention is to create an inner environment, where narrative gives way to a numinous awareness of time and space. What is unusual is the insertion of these experimental concepts into the context of ‘received’ idioms. Conventional gestalts such as the keening descending phrases from bar 98-116 or the rising, heaven-gazing pizzicato arpeggios in bars 63-84 and 117-136 elicit memories that function like the ‘notion of time’ that is ‘outside time’ in Xenakis’ theory of ‘out of time’ structures [Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, London 1996, p 83]. The experimental concepts of time and space are also transplanted onto the convention of sonata form. The epiphanic climax of this structural dichotomy comes in the final section (from bar 166) where the exposition (bar 1-45) is recapitulated almost exactly in terms of pitch material, but completely transformed in texture and mood and with melody both slowed down by the clarinet’s and cello’s unison phrases and run through in fast motion by the piano’s arabesque-like flourishes (bars 175-178 and 183-190).
Born in Winnipeg, Canada, June 16, 1957.
1978-80: Piano performance studies at The Juilliard School, New York, under Beveridge Webster. Graduated with Bachelor of Music degree in 1979 and Masters degree in 1980.
1976-77: Two years towards Bachelor of Music degree, Honours Performance, at the University of Western Ontario under William Aide.
ADMINISTRATIVE AND TEACHING
2007: Professor of Piano and Composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London (formerly Trinity College of Music).
1999-2007: Head of Keyboard Faculty at TrinityLaban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
1993-99: Professor of piano, composition and improvisation at the London College of Music and Media.
1990-93: Acting Assistant Professor of Piano, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
1983: 3RD prize, Washington International J.S.Bach Competition, performing complete Well Tempered Clavier Bk. 2, Washington, D.C.
1982: 1st Prize, Tremplin International, Canadian Music Competition, London, Ontario.
1978: 5th Prize, Silver Medallist, Queen Elisabeth International Piano Competition, Brussels. Included in the prize was a limited edition recording of Scriabin Sonata no. 5 for Deutsche Grammophon.
COMPOSITION (selected works and premieres)
2022: TAKE CARE, chamber opera in 8 scenes (4 principal singers, chorus, puppetry, ensemble of fl/alt fl, ob/cor, cl/bcl, perc, pn, str quartet) – commissioned by University of Nottingham, librettist Cindy Oswin, music director Jonathan Tilbrook, director Mervyn Millar, producer Beth Hoare-Barnes, executive producer and project leader Justine Schneider; Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham, 3 and 4 April, 2022.
2020: Landscape VI for Clarinet, cello and piano – Première: Pacific Clarinet Trio, private concert, Vancouver 8 March 2020.
A Clever Woman, feature film (musical score for pianola and music box, plus improvisation on set) – Jon Sanders, director; première April 2022, London, UK, TBC.
2018: Chorale-Threnody for Baroque flute, string quintet and harpsichord – Première: Pacific Baroque Orchestra conducted by Rodney Sharman, Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, 19 January; part of Vancouver Symphony New Music Festival, recorded for broadcast on CBC Radio 2.
2017: Epiphanies – On reading Alice Munro for speaking pianist and video – Première: Megumi Masaki, piano and Sigi Torinus, live video; Evans Theatre, Brandon, Manitoba,
27 March 2017; part of Brandon University New Music Festival.
2016: A Change in the Weather, feature film (musical score, acting and playing on set) – Jon Sanders, director – Première: Picturehouse Central, London, 7 July 2017; produced by Deerstalker Films and distributed by Verve Pictures. Featuring musical performances with German actress and cabaret singer Meret Becker.
2014: Chorale-Threnody for Erhu and Piano – Première: Nicole Li (erhu) and Corey Hamm (piano), Sound of Dragon Festival, Roundhouse, Vancouver, 11 May 2014.
2012: Night Love Song – Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, commissioned by Rivka Golani, premièred by Rivka Golani (viola), with Canadian Sinfonietta conducted by Tak-Ng Lai – Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, 24 November.
2013: Back to the Garden, feature film (musical score) – Jon Sanders, director.
2010-11: Preludes and Afterthoughts – Fantasy-Transcriptions on Chopin’s Preludes op. 28, for piano – Première: by Douglas Finch, with dancers, Laban Theatre, Greenwich, 14 June 2010, Susan Sentler choreographer. First performance for piano alone: Douglas Finch, Chetham’s International Festival, Manchester, 26 August 2011. Canadian tour of eleven cities including Toronto (Hart House) and Calgary (Eckhardt-Gramatte Concert Hall): Everett Hopfner. 10 November 2013
2009: Late September, feature film (musical score, acting and playing on set); Jon Sanders, director.
2009: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1985-87) – UK Première: Aleksander Szram (piano), with St Paul’s Sinfonia conducted by Andrew Morley; The Broadway Theatre, Catford, June 2009.
2008: Ode to Sun Ra, for R&B Collection, Elena Riu, published by Boosey & Hawkes.
2005: Nirvana, 90-minute piano score for play by Konstantin Iliev, Riverside Studio Hammersmith,London; Jonathan Chadwick, director.
2004: Toccata Montuna, for A little Book of Salsa, Elena Riu, published by Boosey & Hawkes.
2001: Transplant, Musical theatre piece with writers Jeremy Seabrook and Michael O’Neal, Camden Road Theatre, London, November 13 – 17; Jonathan Chadwick director.
1999: Painted Angels, Sound Track and incidental music for feature film directed by Jon Sanders and produced by Greenpoint Films in collaboration with British Screen and BBC Films. Prior to international release, the film was featured at the Women’s Festival of Film in Paris as well as the Birmingham, Greenwich, Kent, Rotterdam and Gothenburg Film Festivals. The score for 18 players includes five flutes, harmonica and harmonium.
2016: A Land So Luminous: Music by Kenneth Hesketh and Richard Causton, with members of the Continuum Ensemble, conducted by Philip Headlam; Prima Facie label.
2016: Inner Landscapes: Piano and Chamber Music 1984-2013 by Douglas Finch – Aleksander Szram (Piano), Lisa Nelsen (Flute), Mieko Kanno (Violin), Toby Tramaseur (Violin), Caroline Szram (Cello); Prima Facie label.
2014: Sound Clouds – Improvisations, Douglas Finch and Martin Speake (saxophone), Pumpkin label.
2014: PEP volume 2 (Piano and Erhu Project), including Douglas Finch Chorale-Threnody; Nicole Li, erhu and Corey Hamm, piano; Redshift label.
2004: Poles Apart: the Chamber Music of Roger Smalley – including Chopin Variations for solo piano, Piano Trio, Trio for clarinet, viola and piano, Crepuscule for piano quartet and short works for solo piano by Chopin and Brahms; with members of The Continuum Ensemble; NMC Label.
2002: The Girl in my Alphabet: Music of Errollyn Wallen, with The Continuum Ensemble, including The Girl in my Alphabet for two pianos performed with Errollyn Wallen; Avie label.
2009: In the Moment – Festival of Improvisation for Music and Dance, Trinity/Laban, February.
2007: Coming Together – Frederic Rzewski and Associates, Trinity College of Music May 8–17. Included first complete performance of Rzewski’s nine-hour long piano piece The Road.
2003: Roger Smalley at 60, Trinity College of Music, May 19-22.
2000: The New Iberia Festival – Co-Artistic Director with Elena Riu, Union Chapel and Hinde Street Church, London, November 17-26 – featuring early, romantic and contemporary Spanish Music. Guests included Carmen Bravo viuda de Mompou, piano, and Juan Martin, flamenco guitar.
1998: Tradition and Innovation – Festival of Improvisation, St.Giles Cripplegate and London College of Music and Media, London, February 5-8.
1994: The Continuum Ensemble – Joint Artistic Director with conductor Philip Headlam. – The group has a core membership of fifteen players, and performs music of the 20th and 21st centuries for concert and stage, and has given over 40 World Premieres and 30 UK Premieres to date. Highlights include premieres of operas by Errollyn Wallen and Judith Wier and festivals at the South Bank Centre, St. Giles Cripplegate (Barbican) and King’s Place, including theatre pieces of Georges Aperghis (1999), music by Quebec composers (2000) and music of Jewish refugee composers including Ernst Toch (2015).
2016: Module on Improvisation, as part of a new online course Certificate in Participatory Music Making, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in affiliation with Open University.
2010-2013: Nine articles (Improvisational Recipes) for Piano Professional Magazine, (EPTA, UK).
2008-2010: Five articles on improvisation for Classical Piano Magazine (Reingold Publishing).
2017: Solo recital of pieces by Richard Causton, John Burge, Rodney Sharman, Charles Ives, Douglas Finch and Frederic Chopin; Isobel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston, Ontario, 5 March, 2017; Windsor University, 11 March 2017.
2015: Concert with The Continuum Ensemble for Swept Away festival – solo and chamber music by Ernst Toch, King’s Place, London, 20 June, 2015.
2014: Joint recital with William Aide, University of Glasgow, including Finch Preludes and Afterthoughts – fantasy-transcriptions on Chopin’s Preludes, 4 December.
2013: Improvisation concert with Saxophone player Martin Speake, The Vortex, London, 6 August.
2013: Gala Concert for Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition – piano works by Howard Bashaw and Douglas Finch, School of Music, Brandon University, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, 4 May.
2009: Improvisations on themes from the audience, Laban Theatre, as part of In the Moment Festival, 18 February.
2003: Concert with The Continuum Ensemble at Spitalfields Festival, London in June including solo piano works by Debussy and Ligeti; broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
2002: Concerts at Dartington International Summer Festival in August including a solo recital with the Ives Concord Sonata, a four-hand and two-piano concert with composer/pianist Errollyn Wallen including music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Errollyn Wallen and Douglas Finch, and chamber works by young British composers as well as a lecture-recital on Ives with Wilfrid Mellers.
2000: Performances at Quebec in Motion Festival, Purcell Room in April including Claude Vivier’s Shiraz for solo piano and Michel Gonneville’s Chute-Parachute for piano and tape.
1998: Fallen City; Mahogany and other Elegies, music by Kurt Weill and Hans Eisler – tour with singer Dagmar Krause of Spain and Portugal, including Madrid, Seville, Salamanca, Porto and Lisbon.
1995: Live BBC3 Recital from St.David’s Hall, Cardiff in November, including music by Roger Smalley, Chopin, Wolpe, Scriabin, Busoni and Shostakovich.
Recitals and broadcasts featuring solo piano improvisation on given themes – including Music Matters, BBC Radio 3 and CBC Radio.
“Works such as Lyric (1984) or Ruins (1984) resonate somewhat with some of the music of both Galina Ustvolskaya and the later Morton Feldman, in terms of the perceptions of time and repetition as well as through types of pained lyricism, which are nonetheless an entirely individual and personal matter in Finch’s works.
“The security with which he inhabits this broad idiom enables a wide range of invention, ranging from the gnomic, terse but penetrating utterances of Illuminations (1995-96, revised 2007) through to the expansive quasi-romanticism of the earlier Fantasy on a Russian Folksong (1989). Yet the very fact of not essentially stepping outside the boundaries of relatively ‘traditional’ varieties of instrumental employment, as well as the maintenance of other aspects of received idioms, serve as a means of allowing expressive coherence at the same time as maintaining a degree of estrangement and defamiliarisation.” —Ian Pace, from an article in the programme for ‘Illuminations – Douglas Finch at 50 – Works from 1986-2007’, Thursday 27 September, 2007, Blackheath Concert Halls, London
“The fatalistic beauty of Jon Sanders’ ‘Painted Angels’ is complimented by its delicate soundtrack by Douglas Finch – proof at last that film music needn’t be bland… Both the score and its film represent a great triumph of artistic will.” – Michael Church, The Independent
“Douglas Finch is one of the all-round composers/performers/improvisers, the kind of which became so rare in our post-modern narrowing down, ultra-specialising era. What makes him unique is his fluency across a huge variety of styles, a genuine expressive voice and the courage to take risks. Among the rare performing classical improvisers, Douglas is one of the few who performs chamber-music improvisations, where the risk-taking is greatly enhanced, elevating the art of listening to the height of mind reading.” – David Dolan, Head of the Centre for Creative Performance & Classical Improvisation, Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Canadian pianist and composer Douglas Finch is known for his unique improvisations, which have featured on programmes from early in his career. He studied in Canada and New York (William Aide and Beverage Webster), winning a Silver Medal at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1978. After moving to the U.K., he co-founded and directed The Continuum Ensemble in London. He has written many works for piano, chamber ensembles and orchestra, as well as music for six feature films, most recently A Change in the Weather (2017) and A Clever Woman (2020) with British director Jon Sanders. Among his commissioned chamber works, two were premièred in 2018 and featured baroque instruments: Chorale Threnody at Vancouver New Music Festival and Twin Stars – Variations of a theme of William Herschel at Royal Albert Hall’s “Festival of Science: Space”.
Recordings include a CD of his music Inner Landscapes: Piano and Chamber Music 1984-2013 with pianist Aleksander Szram, on the Prima Facie label and Sound Clouds, featuring improvisations with Martin Speake (saxophone), on the Pumpkin label.
Douglas is Professor of Piano and Composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, where he has directed several large scale events, including In the MOMENT festival of improvisation for music and dance (2009) and the online festival Preludes to New Lights featuring new and improvised music performed in quarantine from all over the world: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8mrJN8JS6hSlfFULIvrFy_QerXhSNmSV.
HIs opera TAKE CARE, in collaboration with librettist Cindy Oswin, University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University will be produced and premiered at Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham on April 2nd and 3rd 2022. The project is based on extensive research into the working lives of those who care for people with dementia, and is supported by the Arts Council England/National Lottery and the ESRC Impact Accelerator Fund.