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Irving FINE (1914-1962) Complete Orchestral Works
Toccata Concertante (1947) [11:05]
Notturno for Strings and Harp (1951) [13:14] Serious Song , a Lament for String Orchestra (1955) [9:33] Blue Towers (1959) [3:06]
Diversions for Orchestra (1960) [8:57]
Symphony (1962) [21:07]
Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose
rec. 2014, Rogers Center for the Arts, North Andover; Jordan Hall,
Boston BMOP/SOUND 1041 SACD [66:56]
To the list of those such as Toccata who fill the gaps
of neglected music, I’m happy to add the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.
Some of their releases have been too avant-garde for me, but
there’s nothing about these recordings of the music of Irving Fine to
scare the horses. In fact much of the music is as direct in its appeal
as fellow American composers Aaron Copland – Fine’s older contemporary
– and Leonard Bernstein. There’s plenty of online information about
the composer from The
Irving Fine Society and elsewhere and the site enthusiastically
reviewed the Delos album of Fine’s music (below).
The informative booklet – freely available here
– speaks of Fine’s gift for lyricism and quotes Aaron Copland's and
Virgil Thomson’s approval of his ‘keenly conceived sonorities’ and ‘unusual
melodic grace’. The cover art – a portion of a painting by Grace Hartigan,
reproduced in full in the booklet, ‘modern’ yet recognisably within
the mainstream tradition – gives a clue to the nature of Fine’s music.
If you like the one, you will probably like the other.
It may well be that Fine’s music has been neglected for the very reason
that I find it attractive. Listen to the closing movement of Diversions,
The Red Queen’s Gavotte (track 10) and you’ll see that it’s too
clearly within the mainstream tradition for the current orthodoxy of
1960: a trendier composer would have broken up the dance even more than
Ravel does at the end of La Valse.
Not surprisingly, the Symphony of 1962, composed shortly before Fine’s
death, is the meatiest work here, though even that is no tougher than,
say Bliss’s Colour Symphony from forty years earlier. Though
it’s by no means imitative, the second movement, Capriccio (track
12), combines elements of Stravinsky’s neo-classical style with Ravel’s
There is not too much competition in the UK catalogue for this new album,
with just two recordings wholly devoted to his music: one of chamber
and vocal music from the Library of Congress on Bridge 9123 and a Delos
recording featuring the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra/Joel Spiegelman
in Blue Towers, Diversions, Symphony and Toccata Concertante,
as on BMOP, plus an arrangement of a piano work, Music for Orchestra
(DE 3139: review).
I listened to and enjoyed some of the works on that Delos recording
courtesy of Qobuz.
Choice between the two can be safely made on whether you prefer the
orchestral arrangement of Music for Piano (Delos) or Notturno
and Serious Song (BMOP). Music for Piano/Orchestra is
attractive but I’d go for the new recording.
Though the recording is available as an SACD, I listened to a press
review mp3 download. Albeit that it’s only at 192kb/s, the sound is
good enough for me to be confident that the SACD will sound first-rate.
I’m all the more certain of that because I was also able to listen to
it in better sound as streamed from Qobuz.
As with the neglected music which Toccata has been bringing us, this
is not an urgent recommendation, but I have greatly enjoyed hearing
it and I believe that you will too. My review of another BMOP recording,
of music by Elena Ruehr (BMOP/SOUND 1039), is in the pipeline as I write;
it should be online by the time that you read this. It’s powerful music
in a modern idiom which nevertheless contains an appealing beauty and
I enjoyed that too.