Vivian Fine – Songs and Arias (1990)

Vivian Fine: Songs and Arias (1990)

Vivian Fine (1913-2000) was one of the members of the Young Composers’ Group that also included Aaron Copland, Arthur Berger, Bernard Herrmann, Elie Siegmeister, and others. Her composing career spanned essentially seventy years from her professional debut in 1931 until her death in 2000. She was also a skilled pianist. In the 1930s she premiered piano works by many composers including Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Henry Cowell.

Fine composed “Songs and Arias” in 1989 on a commission from hornist David Jolley. Comprised of seven short movements that add up to roughly fifteen minutes, it is one in a series of the composer’s later instrumental works based on vocal forms. An aspect that drew me to the piece is the wide range of moods expressed in the various movements. The composer’s program notes describe “the elegiac mood of the Arioso, the intensity of Canto Hondo, the parodies Rupert’s Aria (from the non-existent opera ‘Unfulfilled’) and the Aria from an equally non-existent Cantata.” The “Elizabethan Song” is an arrangement of one of the songs from “Four Elizabethan Songs” (1940) for voice and piano.

The instrumentation is violin, cello, and horn. I am not aware of any other piece in the repertoire (post 1800) for this combination. (There is a Haydn Divertimento, but I doubt I could muster the altissimo chops required to play it!) Having performed Songs and Arias I can say that working with the two string players was terrific fun. If anyone knows of another piece for these instruments, please post in the comments. I may have to compose one of my own, just to have another handy.

I have linked to the recording of my performance with Gregory Maytan (violin) and Craig Hultgren (cello). The usual live-performance disclaimers apply. It is a single link for the whole piece with “video” that shows a photograph of Fine that seems to capture the essence of her personality. You can obtain the sheet music from the IMSLP page (also linked) and there you will find recordings of each movement from a performance by Jolley, Eriko Sato (violin), and Frank Sherry (cello). Presumably that was the premiere performance in 1990.

IMSLP Page for Sheet Music and Recordings

 

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