Joseph Fennimore: Chamber Works



I first met Joseph Fennimore while attending the Eastman School of Music (1960-64), Rochester, New York, where we were both undergraduates. I knew him to be a fine pianist, but that he also composed I didn't learn until 1967 when invited by a mutual friend to his New York Halloween party. After taking my master's degree at Yale, our paths again separated to take Fulbright grants, I to Paris and he to London.




Upon our return to New York City, we became close friends and played many recitals together, premiering his First Sonata for Cello and Piano in 1974, and playing the cello version of his one-movement sonata Swann in Love in subsequent years. I played in the first performance of the Quartet (after Vinteuil) in 1976 and half a dozen performances since. After Fennimore moved upstate, Juana Zayas and I premiered the Second Sonata for Piano and Cello in Albany, New York in 1983.




Of the four chamber works by Joseph Fennimore on this recording, two are programmatically linked to Marcel Proust's monumental Remembrance of Things Past . For half of the 1970s, Fennimore was obsessed with the work, and viewed the world through Proust-colored glasses. His first composition to reflect its imprint was the Quartet (after Vinteuil) , about which he has written:




Vinteuil is a humble music master and composer who has retired to Combray, the fictional town of Proust's narrator's childhood. There he dies of shame and a broken heart because of his daughter's Lesbianism. Ironically, it is one of the daughter's lovers, a musician Vinteuil detested who, coming upon his long-forgotten music, recognizes its merits and brings it before the world. My Quartet is the valedictory I imagined Vinteuil might have written.




The work employs academic devices in abundance: canon, augmentation, diminution, stretto, inversion. It is cyclical, all movements are played without pause, and almost all the material is derived from the opening measures of the work. The first movement is in a modified sonata form, the second, a rondo, is scherzo-like in character with abrupt changes from playful to ominous, and the third a triple fugue.




Swann in Love (1978, revised 1981) is the second homage to Proust. The composer states:




The hero is Charles Swann, a wealthy esthete who falls in love with a calculating courtesan. As he progresses from mere infatuation to a consuming passion, he is driven by her infidelities to one paroxysm after another of murderous jealousy, followed by humiliating reconciliations. Because he cannot free himself from her, he marries her, for which he is ostracized by his circle, the upper crust of Paris society. The music of Swann in Love mirrors his increasing desperation until, at the cost of the very fabric of his life, he returns to a semblance of his initial composure, much chastened by his experience: alone, aged, battered, perhaps wiser.




A sonata in one movement, there are two theme groups in the tonic and dominant respectively, development of this material, and a restatement of these themes in the tonic. The first of the two development sections leads to a restatement of the second theme in the tonic and the second climaxes the work. Of the unique ending with solo cello the composer notes:




After the initial theme is restated in the piano, the cello takes it up and apparently wanders off into the wrong key as poor Mr. Swann did in his life.




Fennimore's First Sonata for Cello and Piano is full of epithets as to its interpretation. Both have four movements and modify traditional forms. Dating from 1974 the first sonata opens with a moderately slow movement, "somber, dark" the initial mood. The second movement is a tart scherzo which critic Scott Cantrell likened to a "scherzo a la Prokofiev." Directions in the score include "somewhat frantic," "crude," "snappy," and "sharp and driving." The coda of the movement is a fugato which builds in intensity, then fades to a whisper from which the third movement emerges, marked "peaceful, content" and at the end "plaintive, calling." The rondo finale begins without pause "with boisterous good humor." From time to time the movement relaxes, but builds to its climax "with vigor and flash."




Dominated by the piano, The Second Sonata (1984) with its Spanish cast, is a more complex work. The composer considers the four movements to be elements of a large-scale sonata form in which "moods, melodic fragments even keys themselves are returned to for the sake of their peculiar color." Scott Cantrell noted that the first movement is the exposition, the second the development, and the third and fourth a varied recapitulation.




Much of the first movement's thematic material is derived, although indirectly, from the melody with which the cello makes its first appearance. Its character alternates between assertive passages and atmospheric sections. The "Tempo di mariachi" second movement evokes the kind of old-fashioned display piece that was written for trumpeters in the Nineteenth Century. The final two movements are companions, each introduced by the cello alone. The finale ends with a statement of what we now recognize as a kind of motto theme.




-Ted Hoyle








Words about music or pictures. As tangential to their subjects as music about words or pictures. Yet, history testifies to the determination of artists and laymen alike to muddle the various arts together into a stew of intellectually insupportable fancies. Witness Music Appreciation in which doctorates are given.




Periodically, aesthetic Savonarolas hurl bracing anathemas on the pursuit, but it stubbornly persists. And why not? A hearing aid for the deaf, a thesaurus for the illiterate, dark spectacles for the blind, who would deny these assists to the handicapped? As rigorous a pretender to the title of musical logician as Virgil Thomson stoutly maintained that all of J.S. Bach's Preludes and Fugues carry concealed programmes as do Beethoven's sonatas and symphonies.




Very guilty was I of this monkey business in the 1970s when I succumbed to Marcel Proust.




Proust, Joyce, Stein. The trinity of Twentieth Century literary snobbery. Proust is the most honest of the three. Snobbery was his primary subject.




After polite words about my two Proust pieces, (a third was projected but not completed) John Gutman, a Proust scholar, discerning music listener and snob to the n-th degree goaded me with, "but what does your music have to do with Proust?"




Very little, I must answer years later, although at the time I though otherwise. Swann in Love is a litany of self-indulgent passions. (Are there any other kind?) The Quartet (after Vinteuil) is a vulgar display of learning. (Aren't all displays vulgar?) Both employ a 19th Century fin de siecle style I associate with France of that period. Clear voice leading, chromatic but triadic harmony, too much cathedral incense mixed with sweat, perfume and classical pretensions. Worst of all, a belief in the importance of depicting personal feelings. The Proust connection was my quaint effort to justify my anachronistic extravagance by association with an acknowledged master of stylistic excess.




Time remains an invalid arbiter of style. Fashion, yes. There is a vast difference, although our dreadful century has completely confused the two.




I still think that one of the rare souls worldwide who has actually read "The Remembrance of Things Past" and who is musical to boot might find transparent the relationship of my Proust pieces to Proust's characters. The rest who may listen get what they can. I am pleased to report that despite his taunt, John Gutman was directly responsible for many of the performances of these Proust pieces.




Separated by nine years and familiarity with the small but distinguished repertory for solo cello, these two sonatas are not so very different in style and substance. Most distinctive is that the first sonata is dominated by the cello, the second by the piano and the emphasis is not accidental.




-Joseph Fennimore








Ted Hoyle has had a distinguished career as solo recitalist, in chamber music ensembles, and with such orchestras as the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, the Princeton Chamber Orchestra, and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. Featured soloist with the Kean Chamber Orchestra and the Virtuosi de Camera, he has appeared in recital at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago.




During the ten years Ted Hoyle was cellist for the Kohon Quartet, they made numerous recordings for the Vox, Desto, CRI, and Orion labels. He did many performances of American music on the Hear America First concert series of nearly a decade in New York's Carnegie Recital Hall, some of which were recorded for Spectrum Records and the Musical Heritage Society. In addition to the three cello sonatas of Joseph Fennimore that Hoyle has recorded for Albany Records, he has performed in recordings of Bach, Telemann, Handel, and contemporary works for Chesky and Centaur Records.




Ted Hoyle has been a studio musician in New York, recording music for television, motion pictures, and popular music albums, working with such artists as Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick.




Ted Hoyle is Professor of Music at Kean College of New Jersey. He appears frequently in solo and chamber music recitals as well as with the Performing Arts Trio and the Virtuosi de Camera.




In 1985 he edited several works for cello, for viola, and for double bass by Paul Ramsier which have been published by Belwin Mills Publishers.




Cuban-born pianist Juana Zayas graduated at age eleven from the Peyrellade Conservatory in Havana, performing the Schumann Concerto . She then attended the National Conservatory of Music in Paris, taking First Prize in piano and chamber music. She won a medal with distinction at the International Competition in Geneva, Switzerland and Third Prize at the Latin-American Teresa Carreno in Caracas, Venezuela.




Ms. Zayas has performed throughout Europe, South America, and the United States. She has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras and chamber ensembles. Her recording of the Chopin Etudes, Opp. 10 and 25 , released by Spectrum Records has been received with critical acclaim.




Joseph Fennimore has written songs, chamber music, orchestral works, and two one-act operas. His works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera Studio, the New York City Ballet, at the Almeida Festival in London, and the Ravinia, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Tanglewood festivals, among others. His music has been performed nationwide, in Europe and Japan and broadcast worldwide on Spectrum, Nonesuch and Albany Records which label released a compact disc devoted to selected vocal works of Fennimore (TROY023).




Born in New York City, Fennimore has been composing since childhood. He attended the Eastman and Juilliard Schools of Music, receiving degrees with honors from both. After a brief but distinguished career as a pianist, he founded and for its first five years directed the Hear America First Concert Series in New York City devoted to American music. He has written opera libretti, song lyrics, criticism for national music magazines and a two-act musical play Keeping Time , starring pianist Marthanne Verbit which finished a limited New York City run in the spring of 1992. He teaches privately in New York City and is visiting Professor of Music at The College of St. Rose in Albany, New York.








Recording Engineer for the the First & Second Sonatas and Swann in Love : Tom Lazarus; for the Quartet (after Vinteuil ): Marc Aubort · Editor: Gordon Hibberd · Cover Design: Kathleen McMillan




Selected vocal works of Joseph Fennimore are recorded by Albany Records (TROY023), scores of which are available from: Classical Vocal Reprints, P.O. Box 20263, Columbus Circle Station, New York, NY 10023. All other works available from Fennimore Hibberd Publishing, 258 Morton Avenue, Albany, NY 12202.








Chamber Music of Joseph Fennimore




First Sonata for Cello & Piano (1974)


I. Moderately (4:30)


II. Scherzo: fast (2:25)


III. Intermezzo: somewhat slow (3:49)


IV. Rondo: moderately fast (4:05)


Time = 14:49


Ted Hoyle, cello · Juana Zayas, piano




Second Sonata for Piano & Cello (1984)


I. Fast, anguished (4:14)


II. Tempo di mariachi (4:30)


III. Moderately slow (3:49)


IV. Sharply marked, hard and driving (3:47)


Time = 16:20


Juana Zayas, piano · Ted Hoyle, cello




Swann in Love (1981) (10:05)


Ted Hoyle, cello · Juana Zayas, piano




Quartet (after Vinteuil) (1976)


I. Noble, majestic, passionate (12:01)


II. Scherzo (5:56)


III. Fugues (11:35)


Time = 29:32


Larry Guy, clarinet · Maureen Gallagher, viola · Ted Hoyle, cello · Dennis Helmrich, piano




Total Time = 71:27