Vivian Fine





Trio in Three Movements for Violin, Viola, and Violoncello




10 ½ minutes


November 23, 1953, Darmstadt, Germany, Hermann Trio (Karl-Albrecht Hermann, violin, Elizabeth Kramer-Buche, viola, Alexander Molzahn, cello)


Allegro con spirito

program notes

In November and December Fine wrote an ambitious piece, Trio in Three movements for Violin, Viola and Violoncello (1930). The Trio shows how rapidly Fine was mastering compositional techniques. Naturally, in comparison to Solo for Oboe and the Four Pieces for Two Flutes, the Trio is thicker, but it also has more interesting rhythms, such as quintuplets and polyrhythms of five against four and four against three. Interestingly, Crawford had written suggesting that Fine practice scales in counter-rhythms, two against three, three against four, two against five, and so on, while paying attention to interesting off-accents that occur. Perhaps Fine was realizing Crawford’s suggestions in the Trio.
     The form becomes more defined, as is apparent in the third movement’s rondo. Material is shaped by motivic patterns that appear throughout the various counterpoints. In the first movement, these patterns are meant to be recognized because the opening six measures are heard in unison before a three-part texture begins in measure 9. Soon the texture thickens, and the motifs in the cello are counterpointed with a prominent viola melody with brackets to indicate a haupt motif and accompanimental figures in the first violin.
     There are several double stops, and at this time Fine did now have access to string players other than [her sister] Adelaide, so Fine imagined what Trio would sound like. She did look at scores by Hindemith and Schoenberg for ideas. Contrast among the instruments is marked by changes in dynamic markings, labeling of solo passages, and haupt motifs (indicated with brackets), which are shorter and more energetic material that that used in previous pieces. One suspects that the bracketing was probably influenced by her study of Schoenberg’s scores.
     The second movement, titled “Intermezzo,” is a beautiful melody accompanied by a cello pizzicato ostinato. Later the melody is fragmented, passed among the instruments, heard doubled at the major seventh, and decorated before returning to a short recapitulation. “Rondo,” which is an attacca from the second movement, has a spirited motivic A section, a slower and more lyrical B section, and an imitative C section. The rondo pattern is not proportional – the second A is a three-measure remembrance of the original material; the C section is long and developmental; and the closing A is the same length and the original but, as is her custom, is not an exact repetition. With this movement Fine is moving closer to more sophisticated writing. Material is recombined, echoed, and varied, and ideas are juxtaposed.

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


“One was struck by the powerful expression of Vivian Fine’s String Trio”

Darmstaedter Tageblatt (Germany)

audio files

first movement (excerpt)

first movement (complete)

second movement (excerpt)