Vivian Fine








Ballet for Martha Graham
and Orchestral Suite




11 minutes


Dance composition: chamber orchestra; Orchestral Suite: full orchestra


Martha Graham


Premiere of the dance composition: April 29, 1960, 54th Street Theatre, New York, Martha Graham and Dance Company, chamber orchestra conducted by Robert Irving. Premiere of the orchestral suite: November 5, 1983, Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Efraim Guigui


(orchestral suite): The Imperial Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo, William Strickland, conducting, CRI 692 CD, American Masters Series, “Music of Vivian Fine.”

  1. Alcestis and Thanatos
  2. The Revelling Hercules
  3. Battle between Hercules and Thanatos
  4. Dance of Triumph and The Rescue of Alcestis

program notes

The working procedure was much different than it had been in Fine’s previous experience with choreographers. Heretofore the choreography preceded the music. With Alcestis, Fine wrote the music from a dramatic script written by Graham. As stated on the score, Fine’s intention was “an attempt to depict the dramatic and emotional qualities of the myth…[that] avoids descriptive or representational writing.” As a musical work, the score is self-sufficient. Fine distilled the essence of the myth into a sonic drama expressed by contrapuntal lines enhanced by imaginative orchestration and flexible rhythms to complete the composer’s realization of Alcestis. Later she extracted sections of the ballet score to create an independent composition, an orchestral suite.....

            The following synopsis of the ballet’s mythological story is taken from CRI’s original LP release: “Alcestis has sacrificed herself to Thanatos (Death) in order that her husband, Admetus, king of Thessaly, might attain immortality. While the house of Admetus mourns her demise, Hercules arrives. While the news of Alcestis’ death has been kept from him...Hercules indulges in a heroic, might we say Herculean, bout of feasting and drinking. When he learns, by the careless words of a servant, of her death, he engages mighty Thanatos in combat. Victorious, her returns Alcestis to her husband and her people.”

          --Heidi Von Gunden, liner notes to “Vivian Fine,” CRI American Masters CD 692


“…the structures and lines are magnificently clean and very exciting.”

American Record Guide, March, 1962


“…the music of Vivian Fine gives [the ballet] consistent voice. Hearing and seeing, emotion and motor response become a unified process.”

–John Martin, The New York Times, April 30, 1960


“…highly intense…especially cogent in its dark orchestration…”

–Arthur Cohn, The Music Magazine, February 1962

audio files

The Revelling Hercules

Battle between Hercules and Thanatos

Dance of Triumph and The Rescue of Alcestis