February 17, 2006 Composer Irving Fine is Subject of New Publication

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022 | Bob Kessler, Pendragon Press (518) 325-6100
Public Contact: Public: Emily Fine (203) 214-1876

The life and music of American composer Irving Fine (1914-1962) are examined in a new book, “Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time,” by author, composer and pianist Phillip Ramey.

The book is published by Pendragon Press (2005) in association with the Music Division of the Library of Congress, which collaborated with the Fine family to bring the project to fruition. Photographs and other materials in the Music Division’s Irving Fine Collection and companion Web site (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/fine/) served as a resource for the biography. The book is also based on the reminiscences of the composer’s family, friends and professional colleagues.

Born in Boston, Fine’s musical growth stemmed from not only his musical and creative intellect but also his personal and professional relationships with Aaron Copland and four other “Boston School” composers — Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, Harold Shapero and Arthur Berger. The uniqueness of these relationships, with their interpersonal and creative camaraderie, makes a moving and compelling story of the beginnings of truly American music.

A gifted pianist, Fine served as the pianist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and was admired for his superior sight-reading ability. He studied composition and theory with Walter Piston and Edward Burlingame Hill at Harvard University, and with Nadia Boulanger in France. Fine also studied orchestral conducting with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Music Festival in the Berkshires. From 1939 to 1950, Fine taught theory and music history and conducted the Glee Club at Harvard, where he became a close associate of Copland, Stravinsky, Koussevitzky and Bernstein.

Fine left Harvard to found the music department and ultimately the Creative Arts Department at Brandeis University, where he taught from 1950 to 1962. Among Fine’s many honors were two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Research Fellowship, a National Institute of Arts and Letters award, and a New York Music Critics' Circle award. At age 47, he died suddenly days after conducting his Symphony 1962 at Tanglewood, having filled in for Charles Munch who, ironically, had become ill.

Ramey’s biography includes never-before-seen images in the book’s photo section, gleaned from the albums of family and friends. These photographs show Fine from his youth to a few days before his death. They include images of his family, his Tanglewood and Brandeis activities, Koussevitzky and contemporary composers such as Copland, Bernstein and Darius Milhaud.

Ramey is the author of several hundred liner notes and interviews with American composers, and he is an authority on the music of Copland. From 1977 to 1993, he was the program editor for the New York Philharmonic. He has composed piano concerti, a Horn concerto (commissioned by the New York Philharmonic) and chamber music, as well as a large body of solo-piano works.

“Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time,” a 334-page hardcover book, is available for $32 in bookstores nationwide and in the Library of Congress Sales Shop, Washington, DC 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557. Online orders can be placed at www.loc.gov/shop.


PR 06-047
ISSN 0731-3527