Vivian Fine





Canciones y Danzas




14 minutes


Guitar, flute, and cello


Joel Brown


November 8, 1992, State University of New York at Cobleskill
Joel Brown, guitar, Jan Vinci, flute, and Ann Alton, cello


“Five Premieres: Chamber Works for Guitar,” Joel Brown, guitar, Jan Vinci, flute, and Ann Alton, cello. Albany Records, TROY 086.  Also available on demo CD

  1. Adios, Bilbadito
  2. Oda a las Ranas
  3. The Frog Prince and the Señorita
  4. Soliloquio
  5. Jiga de la Muerte

program notes

Canciones y Danzas draws on a variety of Spanish sources. Adios, Bilbadito (Farewell to Bilbao) has its origins in the Spanish Civil War of the 30’s, when Bilbao fell to the reactionary forces of General Franco. Oda a las Ranas (Ode to Frogs) is based on a poem by Pablo Neruda: “The frogs’ serenade rises in my dream and excites it / rises like a twisting vine / to the balconies of my childhood / to my cousin’s breasts…” (translation by Elsa Neuberger). The Frog Prince (of fairy-tale fame) and the Señorita speak with the voices of the guitar and flute while dancing a tango. Soliloquio is dedicated to the memory of my long-time colleague, Louis Calabro. Jiga de la Muerte (Death’s Jig) reflects the direct confrontation with the power of death expressed in Spanish music.

–Vivian Fine, liner notes to the Albany Records CD


Not mentioned in the liner notes, but of significance, are Fine’s many collaborations with dance companies. The work given here, Canciones y Danzas, is clearly rooted in the Dance—every rhythmic gesture is placed and gauged for its physical qualities. The five movements—Adios Bilbadito (Farewell to Bilbao, 1937), Oda a las Ranas (Ode to Frogs), Tango: the Frog Prince and the Señorita, Soliloquio, and Jiga de la Muerte (Death’s Jig)—draw on a variety of Spanish sources, from the Spanish Civil War to fairy tales…and, of course, the Dance.
     Fine has created a wonderful menagerie of musical characters, using the properties of the individual and combined instruments—frogs leap out of the cello, Death takes the form of a giant thrumming insect. But there is more to this piece than programmatic touches. Every sound and event is brought under the influence of the musical progress and the elaborations of character. From the opening exchange between pizzicato cello and guitar, the melody strides out in strong tonal progressions of a decidedly Moorish cast against the rhythms of the tango and hard bursts of harmonic dissonance. A distinctive, and extremely effective element throughout the set, is the pairing of flute and cello, either as a two-octave doubling or in parallel tenths and thirteenths. Also successful is the fourth movement—for solo guitar-which, like Chobanian’s work, is rich in its simplicity. It is also profoundly moving. The solo guitar leads into the finale and is joined by the cello to create the wonderful thrumming sound mentioned earlier. In every aspect, this set of pieces is wonderfully conceived and executed.

–Richard Greene, Guitar Review, Spring, 1994


All five works on the disc are major pieces, perhaps the most successful, Vivian Fine’s five-part “Canciones y Danzas.”
     Fine’s songs and dances exploit the guitar in an original way, getting inside the Spanish sensibility for the play of darkness and light. The opening pieces—“Adios Bilbadito” (Farewell to Bilbao)—refers to the destructions of a village during the Spanish Civil War. It starts out fairly simply with a little tune on the guitar and ends with screams from the flute and laments from the cello…..
     Fine loves frogs, In the section Oda a las Ranas (Ode to Frogs), she has the cello croaking away while the other instruments swim enticingly—Fine’s little musical joke about the love life of frogs, perhaps Spanish ones.
     The final Jiga de la Muerte (Death’s Jig) reminds you of the grotesque carvings on Spanish cathedrals in which a skeleton dances with an animal of some sort. Fine’s piece mocks death in the manner of Don Quixote dueling with his windmill. The musicians, particularly Brown, made the Spanish image universal.

–Ron Emery, Albany Times-Union, July 10, 1996


“Women’s work that stands out…includes Vivian Fine’s splendid ‘Canciones y Danzas’ on ‘Five Premieres: Chamber Works with Guitar’ (Albany TROY 086).

–Joseph McLellan, Washington Post, January 10, 1993

audio files

Adios a Bilbadito

Oda a las Ranas

Tango: The Frog Prince and the Señorita


Jiga de la Muerte