WINNER OF THE NICOLAS SLONIMSKY AWARD
for Outstanding Musical Biography in the Symphonic Book category given by ASCAP for 2007.
Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time is a study of the life and music of an artist of extraordinary refinement and distinction who was also an innovative educator. This book is partly based on the reminiscences of the composer's family friends and colleagues. The portrait that emerges of Fine (1914-1962) is sketched only by those who spoke to the author from first-hand knowledge. Ramey a composer and pianist discusses Fine's brief teaching career in the 1940s at his alma mater Harvard University—shadowed Fine was convinced by a malign tradition of tacit anti-Semitism—and his subsequent years at the newly opened Brandeis University where he flourished founding the music department and introducing a landmark performing arts festival.
In the Foreword Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Richard Wernick who studied under Fine at Brandeis describes the remarkable growth of Fine's compositional style and aesthetic during the many years he knew him. This evolution embraced Stravinskian neoclassicism and romantically inflected serialism producing such recognized masterpieces as the Toccata Concertante for Orchestra the Partita for Wind Quintet and the Symphony (1962). Fine's growth stemmed from not only his probing musical and creative intellect but also his personal and professional relationships with Aaron Copland and four Boston-associated composers - Leonard Bernstein Lukas Foss Harold Shapero and Arthur Berger. In addition to their Harvard and Brandeis connections these men all worked at Tanglewood under the guidance of the legendary conductor Serge Koussevitzky.
As to Fine's personality Copland once termed him simpatico and Bernstein described him as a beautiful spirit in the world of music [who] brought honor to everything he touched. Ramey notes Fine can be seen in retrospect as a musical aristocrat well on his way to major status. That gifted composer should die in middle age just as a personal style consolidating seemingly contradictory elements was finally in his grasp is not only tragic but deeply ironic.
The images in the book's photo section were gleaned from the albums of family and friends and show Fine from his youth to a few days before his death. They include his family his Tanglewood and Brandeis activities Koussevitzky and contemporary composers such as Copland Bernstein and Darius Milhaud as well as the row chart for his String Quartet from the Library of Congress's Irving Fine Collection. Ramey has also provided a chronological list of Fine's compositions.
This book is being published by Pendragon Press in association with The Library of Congress.