In the late seventies Finnissy, sensing a dearth of opportunities for young British composers, began a period of concert performance (and advocacy of new work) that stretched through the 1980s and beyond, with a profound impact not only on the direction of his own music but on the composers and performers (and audiences) with whom he worked. His activities as a pianist coincided with the arrival at the British Music Information Centre of Roger Wright (currently Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival), who developed and promoted a series of salon concerts that took place in the Centre’s reading room at 10 Stratford Place in central London, a space in which Finnissy was a key figure. Reflecting on his time at the BMIC, Wright recalled that ‘there was an element of the work of the BMIC which […] slipped into the world of something which was, if not experimental, at least slightly off-centre.’
This curious in-between space provides the starting point in the proposed chapter for a wider consideration, for the first time, of Finnissy’s performance activities during the 1980s. Drawing on archival recordings, concert programmes, press reviews, and interviews conducted since 2007, I present a detailed (though not exhaustive) overview of Finnissy’s performance activity from his debut recital in Freiburg, 1977, to his performances of English Country-Tunes in 1986. With reference to selected concerts, a series of snapshots are offered which provide insights into Finnissy’s programming as a pianist, his collaboration with dancers and his extensive activities with ensembles. Of central importance here is what we might call ‘the politics of marginality’ during a decade which saw Finnissy attempt to distance himself from a growing interest in (and use of the name) ‘New Complexity’ which his performance and advocacy had done so much to support.