The viola has a way of attracting interesting people. I’ve noted this before. Some of the characteristics that people associate with the alto member of the violin family are: melancholy, contemplative and subtle. It was also the instrument of some of the greatest composers, including Haydn, Beethoven and Dvořák.
A great contemporary violist, who sadly passed away quite recently, lived up to the stereotype by also being a prolific composer. In this post we will hear the first of Marshall Fine’s Rock Etudes for Solo Viola, titled Big Hunk of Love. It’s a rollercoaster through rock chords, replete with riffs and slides. It’s a lot of fun to play and it’s devilishly difficult. But what does it have to do with Armenia?
In Marshall Fine’s extensive corpus of compositions we find some interesting Armenian influences. There is a Suite on Armenian Folk Songs, scored for violin and viola. It’s clear that a violist wrote this, as the viola part pulls no punches. Then there’s his 2 Pieces After Komitas, which takes its inspiration from Vardapet Komitas. I’m not sure how his interest in Armenia came about and I hope to find out some day.
In the meantime, I thought Big Hunk of Love would go well with a photoset from a recent road trip I took through Syunik Province, Armenia. For me, the forward motion, recklessness and wit of the music all evoke the feeling of a road trip. So without further ado, here is one Armenian’s meagre tribute to Marshall Fine: