Vivian Fine





Sinfonia and Fugato




5 ¾ minutes


Solo piano


“Music of Vivian Fine,” CRI CD 692, American Masters Series, Robert Helps, piano

program notes

Fine’s Sinfonia is sonorous, angular, and somber, having an etude-like quality featuring contrary motion, often in sixths, that creates an interesting use of tight and spacious registers. Dotted rhythmic patters contribute a heaviness and seriousness.The Fugato is Fine’s first use of traditional counterpoint for a complete piece, and a casual listener might mistake it for one of the fugues from Hindemith’s Ludus tonalis. The Fugato is in three voices with two subjects. The first begins with a traditional hammerhead figure followed by large leaps, characteristics that allow the listener to follow the fugal procedure. Its answer is accompanied by a counter subject. The second subject is more active rhythmically and has its own exposition that presents a clear tonal center of C. The reminder of the Fugato is episodes using the heads of each subject until the ending, which is a complete statement of the first subject.

-Heidi Von Gunden, The Music of Vivian Fine, The Scarecrow Press, 1999.


Sinfonia and Fugato is a two-movement work which receives its inspiration from the Baroque forms of the same types. Though the Sinfonia and the Fugato differ form each other in character, form, and texture, they form a unified piece because of Fine’s tonal and harmonic relationships, and her use of consistently repeated intervals and dotted rhythms.
     The sonorous open-position chords in both treble and bass clefs throughout the movement resemble the resonant clanging of a gong and suggest Dane Rudhyar’s early influence. Copland’s influence can also be perceived from the outset, as Fine’s opening sonority is a chord comprised of superimposed major and minor thirds, producing a vertical half-step dissonant clash.
     …The rhythmic scheme, featuring various dotted rhythm patterns, moves from simple to complex….As with earlier piano pieces, Fine emphasizes important rhythmic, harmonic, and/or structural elements with dynamic, articulation, or register changes.
     …The Fugato opens with a descending melodic fourth that suggests the key of E-flat, implying a minor-relative major relationship between the two movements. Although the Fugato’s character is completely different from the Sinfonia’s, Fine links the two immediately through this tonal relationship, the initial dotted rhythm of the Fugato, use of harmonic sixths, and the continuation of the fourth from the last melodic figure of the Sinfonia to the Fugato’s opening melody.
     …Though dissonance prevails in the Fugato, Fine writes with an undercurrent of tonality and even loosely defined key relationships, giving credence to Riegger’s statement about Fine’s third period style: “a return to atonality but tempered by key impressions.”

-Leslie Jones, “The Solo Piano Music of Vivian Fine,” Doctor of Musical Arts thesis, University of Cincinnatti, 1994.


The Sinfonia is based on a tertian, though often dissonant harmonic vocabulary. There are frequent changes in texture, rhythm, and tempo, but unity is maintained by the persistent dotted rhythms….The form is marked by an initial motive which returns near the end of the movement, and a middle section with increasing rhythmic activity and sequential patterns.

–Marilyn Meyers Bachelder. “Women in Music Composition: Ruth Crawford Seeger, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, and Vivian Fine.” Master of Arts in Music thesis, Eastern Michigan University, 1975

audio files