Kenneth Fuchs lists
as his teachers Babbitt, Diamond and
Persichetti. His An American Place,
according to the composer, is 'intended
to suggest the rich body of music created
by the American symphonists who have
come before me and from whom I continue
to take inspiration'. JoAnn Falletta,
the conductor of this disc, directed
the world premiere of this piece with
the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in 2005.
The latter section ('Finale scherzando')
suggests the 'brash optimism of the
The work emerges from
a slow, rumbly opening. Don't they all?,
says the cynic in me, but what emerges
thereafter is evidence of a fertile
aural imagination. Fuchs’ voice is confident,
often glittering with some nods towards
the minimalists. He explores darker
regions later in the piece. There is
the impression of Fuchs setting out
his orchestral palette.
Concerto for English horn (or cor anglais
to use the European term) is more interesting,
despite the razzle-dazzle of An
American Place. It is stunningly
played by Thomas Stacy (cor anglais
to the NYPO), whose smooth, round tone
is perfect for this crepuscular exercise.
Stacy is astonishingly accurate in the
faster passages but it is in the more
evocative sections that he excels. Intrinsically
American in sound-world, this is an
interesting piece that is, in the final
analysis, a touch long. Worth hearing
for Stacy's multiphonics, though. He
manages to persuade us that this is
no mere trick but a real expressive
device in its own right - more often
than not they just sound embarrassing!
Out of the Dark
is subtitled, 'Suite for Chamber Orchestra
After Three Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler'.
It is one of these paintings that adorns
the cover of the disc ('Summer Banner'
of 1968). The third movement takes this
as its starting point; the other two
are based on 'Heart of November' and
'Out of the Dark'. Frankenthaler's abstract
expressionism implies to Fuchs a progression
from tension to resolution, a concept
he has transferred to his music - not
uniquely, it has to be said.
The first movement,
'Heart of November' has a Bartókian
slant. Superbly played all round, special
mention should go to the soloist Timothy
Jones, the LSO's principal horn player,
who gives the long, evocative melodies
with real affection. The frozen, fragmentary
'Out of the Dark' is the most impressive
movement sonically, and the piece then
moves straight in to the final 'Summer
Banner', where Jones' horn playing reaches
a climax of improbable smoothness -
what slurs! The movement itself is evocative
of large, open spaces.
Well worth investigating.
Fuchs is a composer who is new to me,
and it has been interesting to spend
55 minutes 16 seconds in his presence.
see also review
by Tim Perry