Quintet for Trumpet, String Trio, and Harp (Fine, Vivian)
|Work Title||Quintet for Trumpet, String Trio, and Harp|
|Year/Date of Composition||1967|
|First Performance||1967-06-03, Washington, Connecticut, Wykeham Rise School; Renato Bonancini, violin, Leonello Forzante, viola, David Wells, cello, Ronald Kutik, trumpet, and Barbara Pniewska, harp|
|Average Duration||16 minutes|
|Instrumentation||trumpet, violin, viola, cello, and harp|
[In 1967] Fine had an unusual request—the Wykeham Rise School, a private school in Connecticut, wanted a composition for its graduation ceremony…in lieu of a commencement speaker. There were no restrictions on Fine’s creativity since professional musicians from the Hartt School of Music would be hired for the performance. Fine decided to write Quintet for Trumpet, String Trio and Harp. Its five baroque-style movements…are reminiscent of her piano compositions of the late 1930s, when Fine was studying with Sessions, however, now her sophisticated musical language allowed flexibility. The Quintet is experimental while maintaining Fine’s personal voice.
The opening “Lento” presents ideas that are used later in the Quintet. First, intervals of diminished and stretched octaves (heard as major sevenths and ninths) and diminished and perfect fifths are prominent, allowing the listener an opportunity to reflect upon the material. Then, as a counterpoint evolves amongst the string trio, polyrhythms of 5:3:4 establish a layering of different tempi, which becomes a salient feature of the Quintet. Next, a twelve-measure passacaglia theme begins with the viola, but soon becomes a klangfarben statement amongst the strings. The theme is repeated two more times, and Fine is careful to make its head of a major seventh stand out in the midst of a dense contrapuntal texture. The passacaglia theme has a series of changing meters that produce a sinuous and twisting movement that helps to identify its repetition. One only wishes the “Passacaglia” were longer. Fine’s evolving counterpoint, intricate layering, and complex rhythms make this such an interesting movement that the listener is left wanting more.
Two “Duos” follow. The first is between violin and viola. Lacking barlines and meters, this passage exploits the layered tempi heard in the Quintet’s beginning. The violin’s tempo is sixteenth-note = 184 and marked “with a ‘parlando’ quality throughout” while the viola’s tempo is sixteenth-note = 132 and a “poco espressivo” indication. The lines are independent of each other, and Fine was careful to balance a flourish of activity in one line with longer durations in the other so that the two tempi are more apparent. Together they form a not quite perfect 3/2 ration (92/66). Further complications in the violin line, such as asymmetrical subdivisions of the beat, make this a virtuosic and challenging movement. The viola continues in the second duet but now its partner is the harp. This duet is less complicated, having meters (although they change frequently), barlines, and common tempo.
The “Pavane” is a somber movement. “Lento, in modo funerale quarter-note = 60,” with the trumpet performing a solo four-measure phrase. Thereafter material from the Quintet’s “Lento” is reused in differing combinations and rhythms. For example, what was an active cello melody in eighth-, sixteenth-, and thirty-second-notes becomes a slower trumpet melody augmented in values and at times with extended durations. It is combined with the original viola counterpoint but minus the asymmetrical groupings and changes in dynamics, which make it a more expressive melody than the original. Mutes for both the trumpet and viola also change the character of the melodies. A similar adaptation occurs for a cello passage….
The last movement, “Cadenza and Ritornella Caleidoscopico,” begins with a parlando solo for trumpet. Changes in tempi, mutes, and dynamics give it the bravura characteristic that a brass player enjoys….Fine has great fun with the Caleidoscopico because she recombines materials from previous movements. In measure 201 the violin and viola lines from the “Duos” are switched and layered on top of harp material from the “Pavane.” Then in measure 227 a trumpet phrase from the Passacaglia” is combined with a cello counterpoint that turns out to be a viola passage from the “Lento” beginning. Many more such recombinings occur, and the Quintet finally ends with an accompanied version of the trumpet’s solo that began the “Pavane.” The Quintet is so cleverly made that one hopes it spoke to the graduates for whom it was written. Perhaps Fine’s selection of movement styles, such as the passacaglia, duos, and pavane, and ”Caleidoscopico” ending was her statement to them about life’s unexpected twistings and turnings.
- —Heidi Von Gunden, The Music of Vivian Fine, Scarecrow Press, 1999