Ross Lee Finney's Chamber Music
A setting of the 36 Chamber Music poems to piano and voice, this song cycle has been favorably compared to Schubert. Reviews or commentary are welcome.
| Excerpts from the Finney article in Contemporary Composers by Frederic Goosens
Finney's early works are imbued with the ideals of the Depression generation of composers, despite his study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in 1927-28 and again in 1932, and with Alban Berg in Vienna in 1931-2. They are direct, expressive, diatonic, rhythmically supple, very much part of the movement that spawned Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, Virgil Thomson and others of their generation.
Among the most representative of these works are the Spherical Madrigals, settings for a cappella chorus of six texts by six English poets of the 17th century, and the song-cycle Chamber Music to poems of James Joyce. Chamber Music, although not published until 1985 was written in 1951-2 just as Finney's style was about to undergo a profound change. It undertakes the difficult task of forging Joyce's brief lyrics into a unified whole. By means of a refined vocal line, flexible rhythms and a piano style that exhausts the potentialities of the instrument Finney pulls together Joyce's 36 poems into a coherent work. In its wide range and grand scale Chamber Music exhibits afflinities with Schubert's Winterreise.
Finney was well-known as an important teacher as well as a composer -- his students included Robert Ashley, George Crumb, and Roger Reynolds. He felt strongly about teaching and believed that the concentration of compositional training in the United States in large universities does not always best serve musical students: "I am often very critical of the university administration's failure to understand the educational needs of the young artist and the advantages of the apprentice relationship in education."
Chamber Music is available on Master Musicians Collective recording CD 2012, and may be special ordered below:
Finney: Chamber Music / Jeanette Lombard, Mary Norris
Ross Lee Finney (Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1994
--A. Ruch &
15 December 2000