David Finko

  • David Finko was born in Leningrad (now St.Petersburg ), Russia (then the Soviet Union ) on May 15, 1936, to a family of a noted mathematician and submarine designer. In June of 1941, he was with his mother and baby sister at his maternal grandparents’ home in the small town of Ushachy in Whiterussia when the German Invasion into the Soviet Union (during WWII ) took place. The town was taken and the grandparents were executed by the German Army, but David with his mother and baby sister were able to escape from the Germans. They took and changed several freight trains running from the Germans and traveling for a month on small amounts of food and water. David was five years old, and he witnessed the destruction of those trains by German bombers and saw bloody human remains. Those experiences strongly influenced his future music.

    He attended the elementary school in the city of Gorkii on Volga River until the end of the WWII. In the summer of 1945, he returned to Leningrad where he graduated from middle school in 1950, and from High School in 1953. David also studied piano with several teachers in Leningrad and, studying in the evenings, graduated from the Rimsky-Korsakov School of Performing Arts in 1958.

    Following in the footsteps of his father, David was persuaded by family and friends to become a naval architect, and consequently studied Naval Architecture and specifically Submarine Design at the Leningrad Institute of Naval Architecture for six years, graduating in June of 1959. From 1957, David was also apprenticed at the Submarine Design Bureau in Leningrad where he wrote and defended his thesis in the summer of 1959; later that year, he was appointed as Submarine Design Engineer at the same Bureau. In the summer of 1958, he was a crew member on two Arctic submarine patrols.

    But David could not forget and drop music. While working at the submarine design bureau, he studied Composition at the Leningrad Conservatory of Music for five years. His teachers included O.A.Evlakhov, V.N.Salmanov and B.A.Arapov, who were all well-established Leningrad composers and professors of composition. In 1965, David Finko’s Sonata for Piano #1 was awarded the First Prize in the Conservatory New Compositions Contest. The same year, David abandoned his engineering career and became full time composer.

    As a member of the Union of Soviet Composers, David Finko has written many large scale works on commission from the Ministry of Culture of Russia and from noted performers. Also David held a position of an editor at the State Music Publisher “Soviet Composer” in Leningrad until 1979.

    For religious and political reasons, David Finko left the Soviet Union and emigrated to the USA in December of 1979, and became a US citizen in 1986. He has taught at Yale University, the Universities of Pennsylvania and Texas, Swarthmore, Combs and Gratz Colleges, among other music schools. He has received awards from the Fromm and Fels Foundations, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, ASCAP, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and others. He has written many works on commission from the Reading Music Society, Orchestra 2001, Galamp Corporation and others. Music of David Finko has been performed in Europe and in the USA as well as in South America, Israel and Russia.

    Finko’s Russian-Jewish heritage is an important aspect of his music, often providing the subject matter (especially for his operas and tone poems) as well as motivating the thematic content. Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, the music of the Russian Orthodox Church and Jewish folksong and synagogue music are clear influences on his style. David Finko has been especially interested in exploring tragic conceptions of the human life expressing those issues in his operas, concertos for instruments and chamber music.

    David Finko is featured in Grove’s, Baker’s and Baker’s Opera Dictionaries as well as in the US Navy magazine the “Undersea Warfare” ( Fall, 2002).

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    410-41278 Fantasia On A Medieval Russian Theme
    For Piano
    9:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    114-40413 Lamentations Of Jeremiah
    For Violin Solo
    114-41437 Sonata for Solo Viola
    (“Lamentations Of Jeremiah”)
    12:00 Viola Unaccompanied
    410-41277 Sonata No. 1
    Solomon Mikhoels – for Piano
    12:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    Chamber Ensemble
    10019 A Woman Is a Devil
    50:00 Fl. Cl. Ct. Tu. Perc. 2Vln. Vcl. Cb.
    10225 Fromm Septet
    Ob. Cl. B.Cl. Vln. Vcl. Cb. Perc.
    114-40429 Reminiscence Of Childhood
    For Horn and Piano
    17099 Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra
    14:00 Solo Picc.; 0 2 2 0 – 2 0 0 0; 2Perc. Str.
    10223 Concerto for Viola, Double Bass, and Orchestra
    22:00 Viola, Double Bass soli; 2(Picc.) 0 2 1(Cbsn.) – 2 1 1 0; 2Perc. Str.
    10224 Concerto for Violin
    24:00 Violin solo; 2(Picc.) 0 2 0 – 2 1 1 0; 2Perc. Str.
    10222 Concerto Grosso
    for Flute, Oboe, Bassoon, Percussion and Strings
    20:00 Viola, Double Bass soli; 2(Picc.) 0 2 1(Cbsn.) – 2 1 1 0; 2Perc. Str.
    21674 Concerto Grosso No. 2
    for English Horn, Bass Clarinet, Contrabassoon and Orchestra
    17:00 E.H., B.Cl., Cbsn. Soli; 2 0 2 0 – 2 2 1 0; 3Perc. Str.
    10226 Moses: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
    20:00 solo Piano; 2(Picc.) 0 2 1 – 2 2 2 0; 2Perc. Str.
    17298 Triumphant Overture
    6:26 3(Picc.) 2 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    10020 The Enchanted Tailor

    …another of his powerful, evocative and soul-shattering compositions… the Slavic tradition of musical excellence. Perhaps we will be able to brag in the future that the famous (we hope) Russian composer had his American beginnings in El Paso.
    –Betty Ligon, El Paso Herald-Post

    Mr.Finko pulled out most of the stops for his MOSES. It was serious. It was whimsical. It was fun. It wasn’t too long.
    –Tom Power, Chattanooga News-Free Press

    His palette is very rich, and he seems to have heard and digested everything, and yet his voice remains original. He may be a prince in waiting – another Russian
    –Lou Camp, Philadelphia City Paper

    But a single hearing of the concerto is enough to convince anyone that here is a composer of remarkable power, astonishing resourcefulness and a genuine gift…
    –Gerald Elliott, Grand Rapids Press

    Finko has an eye for good material…he proved to be a resourceful orchestrator…
    –Peter Dobrin, Philadelphia Inquirer

    Of the music itself, I think that the opera-buffa was written by a master composer, who, by combining tradition and creativity, was able to bring the old to the new. Juxtaposition of different rhythms, polytonal treatment of tonality and dissonance gave t
    –Eleonor Sigal, Penn Sounds

    Industrious composer has operas to spare
    –Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer

    For me, the major discoveries are Finko’s 1988 Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, with its wildly inventive scoring…
    –David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer

    …one of the most important unveilings Orchestra 2001 has presented.
    –Tom Purdom, Welcomat

    …the work was filled with inner contrasts, indeed contradictions … Yet a difficult-to-decode structural integrity held it together. The work has an odd, appealing exoticism…
    –Kyle MacMillan, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE)

    Finko’s work redefined the form, setting a string orchestra against a solo group of flute, oboe, bassoon and percussion. His music exploits a rich, dense string sound in writing that drew strong colors from the solo instruments. The potent percussion gave
    –Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer

    …first-rate… From the taunting repetitions and relentlessness of the driving third movement to the ethereal moments of the conclusion, the work was filled with inner contrasts, indeed contradictions… Yet a difficult-to-decode structural integrity he
    –Kyle MacMillan, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE)

    His music exploits a rich, dense string sound in writing that drew strong colors from the solo instruments.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer

    We Philadelphians must rejoice at Mr.Finko’s residence among us, and his generous sharing of his genius with us…Mr.Finko played the Fantasia with his accustomed brio, and Shostakovich might have envied him this powerful music.
    –Lou Camp, Penn Sounds

    …this music is very calculated and engineered, yet dense with unbridled energy and spontaneity. Clearly, this work is representative of our time…
    –Laurie Hudicek, New Music Connoisseur

    …in the careful elucidation of themes and the textural contrasts of the instrumental scoring, Finko writes as cleanly as Hindemith in his American phase.
    –Lesley Valdes, Philadelphia Inquirer

    His 1982 Fromm Septet is intense, chromatic, focused. Finko’s sense of motivic grounding is ironclad. At every moment one hears the core idea on which the piece is based, hears how it is being transformed, and senses where it is going. This is no small ac
    –Robert Carl, Fanfare

    Throughly idiomatic for the instrument, …has some extra-musical inspiration…Offering technical challenges a-plenty, this is an interesting and worthy addition to the solo violin repertory
    –Robin Stowell, The Strad, London

    Finko is a thoroughly professional composer, who has developed an interesting approach to fusing the most disparate musical elements. In addition, Finko has a sound grasp of thematic development… His dramatic sense is extremely acute, and the ebb and flow
    –Daniel Ziff, The Jerusalem Post

    It is an intriguing work: four movements sharply contrasted in tempo, with the driving, almost manic energy of the second and fourth movements of fiendish Scriabin-like difficulty. Most striking are the spare, repeated short phrases of the third movement…
    –David Shengold, musicalamerica.com

  • Orchestra 2001 Music Of Our Time: Volume 5 ORCHESTRA 2001 MUSIC OF OUR TIME: VOLUME 5
    CRI/New World Records (NWCR899); February 1, 2007
    Performer(s): Orchestra 2001; James Freeman, conductor & piano; Barbara Ann Martin, soprano; Dorothy Freeman, oboe, English horn; Mikhael Tsinman, violin
    Work(s): Concerto for Violin and Orchestra “Nightmares of St. Petersburg”
    Orchestra 2001: Chant des rochers ORCHESTRA 2001: CHANT DES ROCHERS
    CRI/New World Records (NWCR847); February 1, 2007
    Performer(s): Orchestra 2001; James Freeman, conductor; Dorothy Freeman, oboe/oboe d’amore; Igor Szwec, violin; Ulrich Boeckheler, cello
    Work(s): Fromm Septet

  • 1965: Sonata for Piano No. 1 was awarded the First Prize in the Conservatory New Compositions Contest
    Fromm Foundation award
    Fels Foundation award
    Pennsylvania Council on the Arts award
    ASCAP award
    Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture

  • Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra
    Concerto Grosso No. 2
    for English Horn, Bass Clarinet, Contrabassoon and Orchestra