One celebrated composer once complimented the “elegance, style, finish [and] convincing continuity” of a composer known to far fewer. It was Aaron Copland talking about Irving Fine, and he couldn’t have said it better. The formal western music that came after romanticism followed a trajectory of increasing chromaticism and experimentation with forms and dissonance, which laymen often take as a signal of a pretentiously academic product. The most successful composers of modern classical music – if success can be measured in memorability and general accessibility – had a knack for making unexpected elements into affable, organic threads in their musical tapestries. These composers wrote music that challenged norms but still sounded good by nearly universal standards. Aaron Copland was one of these composers, and so was Irving Fine. When dissonance doesn’t derail but rather compliments an overarching sense of cohesion in a piece, that piece’s composer has accomplished something, and Irving Fine accomplished more than enough in this regard to merit remembering him. His death at 47 may have contributed to him not becoming quite as well known as contemporaries Copland and Leonard Bernstein, and although he’s still remembered he’s undoubtedly unknown to a great many who would cherish his music if they only knew it existed. You can find him without too much trouble, such as on Amazon in fine recordings such as this:

An Irving Fine Celebration at the Library of Congress