Vivian Fine





The Garden of Live Flowers




8 minutes


Soprano, baritone, tenor, and piano


Lewis Carroll


After Dinner Opera Company


March 27, 1988, Queensbury Community College, Bayside, New York, Meet the Composer program, After Dinner Opera Company, MaryEllen Landon, Richard Holmes, and Bert Lindsey, singers, Conrad Strasser, piano and conductor


Available on demo CD

program notes

…a humorous and clever setting of text from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland….Previously Fine had used other garden settings—A Guide to the Life Expectancy of a Rose and The Women in the Garden—and The Garden of Live Flowers resembles both. Its cabaret style of piano and a vocal trio (A Guide was a duet), unusual text, and humorous situation are an obvious link to A Guide….Like Women in the Garden, Fine wrote quasi-declamatory vocal lines to ensure clarity, paying careful attention to rhythmic inflections. Generally the vocal lines are independent from the piano, except at the beginning and end. The piano part is especially clever.
      The Garden begins with a piano introduction of a strange two-voice counterpoint. Even more unusual is the entrance of the vocal trio in which the three repeat the introduction, singing letters of the alphabet. Actually they are spelling “This time she came upon a large flower bed.” The same passage is repeated at the end of the piece, in case the listener wants a second chance to decode the message. However, this material becomes the basis for the piano’s role, which does more than just accompany the voices; it interprets and comments upon the text, such as when the opening line of the left hand is presented later as a single melody of trilled pitches accompanying the text when the flowers tell Alice they can talk. The same material is also reused in canon, as rolled chords, inan ostinato figure, and in several retrograde passages. This creative economy adds unity to what could be a strange piece.

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

audio files