Reviews

Gramophone, October 2014
See also Gramophone’s interview with Kenneth Fuchs (in the same issue) here »
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING MAN, MOVIE HOUSE, SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND OF EXPERIENCE
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Roderick Williams, baritone
Naxos (American Classics 8.559753)

The winning songcycles by Kenneth Fuchs on this new disc show how far the American composer has come — yet how constant he has remained — since his student days in the 1970s. The earliest cycle, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, setting poems by William Blake, bears traces of Britten, down to the presence of a text the British composer set in his own cycle, Songs and Proverbs of William Blake.

Although he writes in a tonal style that occasionally resembles Britten’s aesthetic, Fuchs claims his own expressive warmth and colour. Words are always discernible, a manifestation both of graceful and urgent shaping of vocal lines and judicious orchestration. Fuchs’s Blake songs (1977) are brief and full of telling incident; the text in the final piece, ‘The Tyger’, is declaimed partly in Sprechstimme fashion.

Like the Blake cycle, Movie House (2007), setting poems by John Updike, is scored for baritone and chamber ensemble. Here, too, Fuchs conjures glowing evocations of the words while adding atmosphere and nuance through a small contingent of instruments.

The aura is more dramatic, as it naturally would be, in Falling Man (2009–10), a series of interludes and arias (to texts by Don DeLillo, from his 2007 novel of the same name) about the experiences of a 9/11 survivor. Amid Brittenesque lyricism, Fuchs musters ferocity and pungency as the tragedy unfolds.

The performances are exemplary, from baritone Roderick Williams’s commanding artistry to the bold, fresh playing of the London Symphony Orchestra under JoAnn Falletta's sensitive direction.   — Donald Rosenberg


Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, September 2, 2014 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING MAN, MOVIE HOUSE, SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND OF EXPERIENCE
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Roderick Williams, baritone
Naxos (American Classics 8.559753)

Anyone living life around New York especially will no doubt recall exactly what they were doing and their experiences on the morning of 9/11. Those outside the immediate area will do the same, but perhaps with less of the kinetic shock those nearby felt. It was a horribly defining moment for many of us, a moment that changed everything one way or another, for some a loss of personal innocence, a rite de passage into an afterward at least initially of twilight and loss.

Composer Kenneth Fuchs has come to terms with this via Don DeLillo’s novel centering around the tragedy and its aftermath, Falling Man. Fuchs has composed a number of works based on the theme, but now we get to experience the principal one.…

It is a moving work that sets to music the opening passages of DeLillo’s novel dealing directly with one man’s experience on the streets during ground zero. The baritone describes the horror of the scenes the character witnesses while the orchestra comments mournfully but even somewhat mysteriously, as in a dream, the unfolding of those moments.

It is a masterful work, in its own way a kind of analog to the Hindemith-Whitman work “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” on the horrors of the Civil War and the death of Lincoln. Both are requiems in their own way. Both filter the immediacy of the horrors through a mediation and meditation of poetics, music and memory.

Roderick Williams gives us a definitive performance that is seconded by the greatly poetic reading of the score by Falletta and the London Symphony.

Companion works on the disk contrast well. Both are also for baritone — and a pared-down chamber ensemble. The first, “Movie House” (2007), gives us a number of poems by John Updike that evoke vividly the optimism of the ’50s. Concluding the disk is “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” (1977), an earlier work based on the William Blake poems, including of course “The Tyger.” Both remove us from 9/11 by moving back in time, to two other eras with their different moods, and in a way to Blake summing up the process of knowing what one knows (or intuits) after the loss of innocence.…

Kenneth Fuchs sums up something about being alive right now in the three works taken together. He speaks to our age as a direct contemporary, neither overstating nor understating, bringing us a very musical-poetical portrayal of where we have been and where we are.

On that basis I would say that this disk is pretty near indispensible for those wanting the new music as it lives for us right now. Kenneth Fuchs captures that, and thanks to the beautiful performances we can live inside of it here, as we live the aftermath of what came before.    — Grego Applegate Edwards


The Claremont Institute, Writings, December 2013 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)

Kenneth Fuchs’s chamber music release comes from Naxos and includes Falling Canons (Christopher O'Riley, piano), Falling Trio (Trio21), and String Quartet No. 5 "American" (Delray String Quartet). The Fifth Quartet, according to the composer, "is alternately lyrical and playful, sometimes brusque and muscular, at times elegiac, and it is meant to suggest the resilience and brash optimism of the American spirit." It has a subdued, sweet beginning with a gorgeous theme. At about three minutes in, it starts dancing—almost a little hoedown, but the sheer loveliness of it keeps things mellow. One almost wonders if it will dissolve in its own beauty—this glittering, luminous sound. The second movement contains an insinuating, insistent, almost obsessive theme that is passed from instrument to instrument—done pizzicato on the cello—with a doleful melody cast across it that fails to subdue this nervous scherzo. The third movement starts with a pained utterance in several chords. Then Fuchs returns to the exquisite opening theme, but casts it more darkly and somberly. Now the violin begins a sad little dance, which stops, then starts again. It is a bit like some of Shostakovich's Jewish-inspired quartet writing. The dance dissolves, and the obsessive melody from the scherzo reappears, followed by a moving lament. Everything that has happened so far in this Quartet seems to be gathered up in this movement, including motivic elements of the Falling Man theme. Its wildness and sense of immediacy once again recall Janacek. The closing allegro begins exuberantly. The spirited double fugue of the last movement is a thrilling tour de force of counterpoint and melody. It banishes the preceding sadness. This is jubilant music that fulfills Fuchs’s purpose of affirmation. The Fifth is one of the finest quartets of the past several decades — American or otherwise.

There is little in contemporary music that is as directly expressive as the music of Kenneth Fuchs. It goes right to the heart and stays there. If you think America's song has already been sung, you need to listen to this.   — Robert R. Reilly


Classical Net, November 2013 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)

Let's cut to the chase. Yes, the titles may seem abstract, and yes, this is the dreaded contemporary music, but this excellent Naxos album could go a long way in establishing Kenneth Fuchs as a legitimate voice in American music. We have here a piano suite, a string quartet, and a piano trio. Three distinct types of music, all expertly well done and very engaging as a whole.

Falling Canons grew out of a theme based on a work for baritone and [orchestra] following 9/11. Fuchs has taken one of his main themes and crafted a thought provoking set of seven movements for solo piano that explores the changes in the world following those terrorist attacks. It was composed specifically for the pianist here, Christopher O'Riley, and sounds marvelous. It's a truly effective 9/11 tribute by virtue of the fact that there is no text, just raw emotion that rises, then collapses, then rises again and so on.

The "American" String Quartet was commissioned by the Delray musicians, who are based in southern Florida. The composer suggests — the notes for this release are his own — that the quartet suggests the American spirit. It is my suggestion that you treat it as absolute music, although Fuchs is right in saying that he was heavily influenced by this country's symphonic history. There's a little bit of everything here, fun, nobility, and above all great art. The Delray play this work as anyone who has a work written for them should, with great care and obvious affection.

Trio21 includes cellist Robert deMaine, someone who I "grew up" with as a young Detroit Symphony patron. He, along with Jeffry Biegel and Kinga Augustyn, tackle Falling Trio, which shares themes with Falling Canons and the earlier work mentioned, Falling Man. Biegel commissioned this piece, and again the musical writing is striking. By not saying anything, Fuchs says everything. This 13-minute, one movement trio is just as hauntingly effective as the opening seven movements for piano, maybe more so due to the skillful and honest instrumental writing. If you're someone who winces at new music, or generally shies away from "American" music of this nature (tributes, etc), I suggest you try this disc. It's very good, and deserves your time, both for the excellence of the music on display, and for the commitment and obvious depth that the performers bring.    — Brian Wigman


Scene, London, September 26, 2013 (PDF online, page 20)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)

Composer Kenneth Fuchs has enjoyed critical and commercial success over the past decade, thanks in part to his work with Naxos. Fuchs’s first release on the label — 2005’s An American Place — was nominated for two Grammy Awards, and the music itself compared favorably to that of John Adams, Fuchs’s contemporary and fellow countryman. The composer’s latest effort, which features work for solo piano and string ensemble, is in many ways a continuation of a creative endeavor which began in 2008. At that time, Fuchs started work on Falling Man, an extended setting for baritone voice and orchestra, which was based on author Don DeLillo’s powerful post–9/11 novel of the same name. Written over a period of two years, Falling Man musically organized the events of September 11, 2001, around a sequence of 12 descending pitches. This approach is revisited in the sparingly beautiful phrases of Falling Canons, seven piano movements that, as Fuchs himself notes, “explores the essence of the Falling Man theme on the keyboard within limited musical parameters.” Meanwhile, the recording’s title track, Fuchs’s fifth string quartet — known as ‘American’ — summons the spirit of its namesake subject matter with robust melodies and elegiac turns as grand as the country and people the music describes. Rousing.    — Chris Morgan


MusicWeb International, September 30, 2013 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)

If you have been collecting the burgeoning ‘American Classics’ series on Naxos then the name of Kenneth Fuchs will not be new to you. He is one of America’s leading middle generation of composers. For example you may have come across his beautiful ‘Canticle to the Sun’ (Naxos 8.559335). There are other orchestral and choral works dotted about the catalogue (Naxos 8.559224) and Albany has also recorded him: a disc of String Quartets 2, 3 and 4 (TROY480).

The present disc begins with Falling Canons for solo piano. It is magically played by the amazingly versatile Christopher O’Riley also known as a jazz pianist and radio and TV presenter in America.

It was after reading the novel by Don DeLillo ‘Falling Man’ which took as its starting point a figure walking out of the rubble of 9/11 that Fuchs was moved to write a major work. This book stood as a starting point for a song-cycle for baritone and orchestra, ‘Falling Man.’ Once finished Fuchs, like other composers before him, discovered that some of the musical material and some of the philosophical ideas behind the piece needed to be further developed, hence this work, especially written for O’Riley.

Put simply, there are seven canons beginning on a B. The first is at the octave, the second pitched on A is at the second, the third pitched on G is at the third and so on. In addition, for example, canon 4 is in 4/2 canon, 5 in 5/8 canon, 6 in 6/8 and so forth. The Falling Man theme used from the song-cycle is the one deployed in this piano work. Although it seems to start in a somewhat cerebral manner it develops movingly and mysteriously to make a satisfying and thoughtful overall composition.

This disc also includes a Piano Trio entitled Falling Trio, which is also a set of seven variations and is from the same stable as ‘Falling Canons.’ The clear and interesting booklet notes by the composer tell us that the introductory Falling Man theme is based again on B then “the subsequent variations are based on successive ascending scalar passages” the opposite to the piano piece. This time these play without a break and so are not separately tracked. The language is often atonal and contrasted with the more aggressive and brittle moments there are two beautiful “reconciliatory” passages in a more romantic and diatonic vein in an attempt to “to reconcile the work’s tonal and non-tonal language.” I found the trio very moving right from the start and its length is just ideal for its material. The performance is given by the group, Trio21, which commissioned and first played it. What we hear has the complete feeling of total authority, both technically and musically.

In between these two items comes the much longer String Quartet No. 5 subtitled rather bravely, bearing in the mind the famous Dvořák quartet, ‘American.’ Like the Dvořák it is in four movements but there the similarities end as these have a variety of tempo alterations within them. How does a composer have something different to say in this form, which is already clogged up with too much great music?

In his first movement Fuchs adopts a concise sonata-form, the second subject of which is to be developed, alongside his Falling Man theme in the lyrically desolate and slow third movement. In between comes a skittish Scherzo. The exciting finale is a clever double fugue. The opening theme of the quartet is deliberately spacious and open and, as the composer readily admits, typically American in a Coplandish way. It possesses a beautiful lyrical line as a secondary idea after about 70 seconds. The writing is always attractive and idiomatic. As a whole there is an individuality about this music which makes one want to return to the work … and to hear the other four quartets. This is the highlight of the CD. The Delray Quartet were the commissioners and first performers. They clearly understand exactly what Fuchs’ intentions are. No composer could want more.

Apparently another disc of Kenneth Fuchs’s music is to appear next year on Naxos and will have the orchestral Falling Man work as its highlight.    — Gary Higginson


Gramophone, September 2013
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)

Kenneth Fuchs isn’t the only composer to fashion concert music from recycled operatic material. He’s not even the first American to use smaller pieces to promote bigger works (John Adams had pretty much announced Nixon in China with his 1985 orchestral ‘outtake’ The Chairman Dances). But few composers have gained as much mileage — or found greater range — than Fuchs’s ‘Falling’ works, which open and close this collection.

Taken from Falling Man, an extended scena for solo baritone and orchestra adapted by JD McClatchy from Don DeLillo’s post–9/11 novel, Fuchs’s Falling Canons (seven canons for solo piano) and Falling Trio (a single-movement set of variations for piano trio) sound as vibrant in performance as they look prosaic in description. The counterpoint unfolds with Hindemith–like clarity, leaving its respective performers — Christopher O’Riley and Trio21 — essentially to countermand the titles of the works and reach lyrically for the stars. I‘m not sure what is so ‘American’ about Fuchs’s American String Quartet, by far the longest of the the three pieces here, though its relative freedom in structure establishes a clear emotional space between the ‘Falling’ works. Likewise, the exhilarating momentum of the Delray Quartet offers a welcome change from the intellectual rigor of O’Riley and the contemplative playing of Trio21.

According to Fuchs’s booklet–notes, Falling Man will be recorded for Naxos by baritone Roderick Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra under JoAnn Falletta. I don’t usually fall for such shameless promotion but I may just order myself an advance copy.    — Ken Smith


Fanfare, September/October 2013
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)
KENNETH FUCHS: ATLANTIC RIBAND, AMERICAN RHAPSODY, DIVINUM MYSTERIUM
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Michael Ludwig, violin; Paul Silverthorne, viola
Naxos (American Classics 8.559723)
KENNETH FUCHS: STRING QUARTETS 2, 3, 4
American String Quartet
Albany Records TROY 480

Hearing all three discs in succession is an object lesson for a critic: Many composers who may be initially pigeonholed prove on closer examination to have unsuspected breadth. Fuchs is certainly one, and is a musical discovery I have been delighted to make. As to the performances, they are without exception marvelous.… All three discs are confidently recommended to lovers of new music that has got something to say and does not go out of its way to be alienating.    — Phillip Scott

Fuchs writes in an arresting synthesis of stylistic elements proving that tonal music has much to yield in originality even many years after it began to be attacked by modern composers….    — David DeBoor Canfield

Kenneth Fuchs’s contributions, especially in the genres of orchestral and chamber music, are considerable and significant. The three CDs reviewed here represent but a small sampling of his work, but any one of them, or all three, are likely to whet your appetite for more. Performances and recordings couldn’t be better. Recommended, recommended, and recommended.    — Jerry Dubins

On Atlantic Riband:

Fuchs’s idiom is a most ingratiating mix of tonal harmonies, interesting sonorities and textures, and colorful writing.    — David DeBoor Canfield

On Divinum Mysterium:

Paul Silverstone, for whom Fuchs composed the concerto, plays magnificently, and … all violists should be grateful for the addition to their literature of such a handsome and deeply moving original work.    — Jerry Dubins

On String Quartet No. 5 (“American”):

Of Fuchs’s “American” String Quartet, I think I can honestly say that the opening movement may be one of the most drop-dead gorgeous things I’ve ever heard, and that I can’t think of another composer since Shostakovich who has drawn such sonorities from a string quartet. This is a masterpiece….    — Jerry Dubins

On Falling Trio:

The concluding work on this CD, Falling Trio, was also inspired by Falling Man, and is cast in one continuous 13-minute movement that comprises seven distinct fantasy variations, also derived from the material in the vocal work. The work runs the gamut of emotions, ranging from grand gestures of arpeggiation over an A-Minor triad to dramatic rhythmic unison octaves in the lower range of the three instruments. It also, according to the notes, features a “reconciliation” theme that is interpolated into the proceedings twice, in which the instruments attempt to reconcile the work’s tonal and non-tonal musical language. This reviewer considers that this goal was met most successfully: The work succeeds brilliantly.    — David DeBoor Canfield

On Falling Canons:

Falling Canons is a suite for solo piano of seven canons, written for Christopher O’Riley, and is a tremendously impressive piece of music. Each of these canons is pitched at a different degree of the scale, and while octave doublings are not uncommon the whole work consists entirely of two-part counterpoint. The writing is as clean, rhythmically charged, and sharp-edged as the piano sonatas of Fuchs’s one-time teacher Persichetti; quite a compliment.    — Phillip Scott

On Kenneth Fuchs: String Quartets 2, 3, 4:

The American Quartet that presents these works is a first-class ensemble, possessed of impeccable intonation and phrasing. The group also produces, with the help of the composer needless to say, some remarkable string colors. This is a most enjoyable disc all around and, as with all the music here reviewed, receives an unqualified recommendation.    — David DeBoor Canfield


Classical CD Review, June 2013 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: ATLANTIC RIBAND, AMERICAN RHAPSODY, DIVINUM MYSTERIUM
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Michael Ludwig, violin; Paul Silverthorne, viola
Naxos (American Classics 8.559723)

Redux. Kenneth Fuchs (pronounced fooks) studied with, among others, Milton Babbitt, David Diamond, and Vincent Persichetti. To some extent, all three left their mark — Diamond and Persichetti in the orchestral sound, Babbitt in a predilection for constructing scores from particular intervals. Like some in his generation, Fuchs (born in 1956) eschewed the postwar trends and went back to the American composers between the wars, like Piston and Copland, for inspiration. The music often has a “big-shoulder,” open-air quality to it, evoking epic Romantic vistas.

All of the works on this disc at least sound gorgeous.…

The overture Atlantic Riband sends a love letter to the glory days of American transatlantic ship travel.… Again, it's one of those pieces that Fuchs has constructed from a few intervals and chords — a use of minimal means to produce a maximal score.

To me, the one-movement viola concerto Divinum Mysterium is the big work on the program, and not just because of length. It shares many ideas with American Rhapsody, including the soloist arpeggiating on, this time, a ninth chord. However, the medieval Sanctus trope, known as the Divinum Mysterium, serves as its main building block. More may know it as the Christmas hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.” Fuchs takes the tune for a walk through quiet gardens and barn dances…. The rhythmic sections get your blood moving, while the meditative ones retain point and intensity. The finale joins the long-limbed melodies with the rhythmic percolation. Fuchs tries for spiritual exaltation and without a lot of fuss brings it off.

Falletta's readings match the music. They let you know how good each score may be.… Divinum Mysterium gets a stellar account, aided largely by Paul Silverthorne, LSO principal viola and the score’s dedicatee. I've raved before about Silverthorne, who may be my all-time favorite violist. He has all the virtues I associate with intelligent, musically sensitive playing: an imaginative shaping of line, acute rhythm, awareness of his ideal place in an ensemble. Beyond this, however, he also has the ability to penetrate to the emotional core of whatever music he plays. In this case, he projects a mystical intensity. His isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, and he plays a wide range of music. His Brahms differs from his Lutyens which differs from his Shostakovich. He aims to speak in the composer’s voice, and to this end, he wants to understand the music’s architecture, as well as its rhetorical shape. I have no idea whether Fuchs’s concerto will last. Much depends on its adoption by violists. However, Silverthorne’s account recommends this work to others — listeners, conductors, and players alike.    — Steve Schwartz


Classical Lost and Found, May 27, 2013 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)

All of the works here were composed specifically for the artists playing them, and the performances are accordingly totally committed. American pianist Christopher O’Riley gives a technically stunning, insightful reading of Falling Canons, while the Florida-based Delray Quartet play Fuchs’s most recent effort in the genre with great panache. As for Falling Trio, Fuchs wrote it for the Trio21's 2011–2 inaugural season. Consequently the work not only introduced the public to an exceptional new chamber ensemble, but also an outstanding contemporary addition to the piano trio literature.


infodad.com, May 16, 2013 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)

Fuchs is so expert a composer that even the more-challenging aspects of his work — for both players and listeners — seem to flow logically from his concepts rather than to be created out of a misplaced sense of “necessary modernity.” Two of the works on the new Naxos CD trace to the same source: Fuchs’ Falling Man, written for baritone and orchestra in the aftermath of the September 11, 2011 terrorist mass murders in New York City. Falling Canons takes the main theme of Falling Man through a series of elegant and rigorous movements for solo piano, which Christopher O’Riley handles with sensitivity and just the right amount of virtuoso display — which is to say, not too much. Falling Trio uses the same principal theme for a one-movement work that, like Falling Canons, has seven parts — in this case, seven variations, all of them expertly developed and very well played by Trio21. As for String Quartet No. 5, “American,” it is a larger-scale work than either of the others, but resembles them in one key way: it too is based on a single theme, which Fuchs adapts, arranges, tosses about and develops in a series of clever and often elegant ways through four movements lasting nearly half an hour. The Delray String Quartet plays the work with verve and considerable sensitivity, and this CD as a whole shows why Fuchs’ music is some of the most popular worldwide among performers and audiences interested in modern American composers.


Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, May 16, 2013 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING CANONS, FALLING TRIO, STRING QUARTET NO. 5 (“AMERICAN”)
Christopher O’Riley, Trio21, Delray String Quartet
Naxos (American Classics 8.559733)

This is the sort of album that seems to well epitomize what a composer is about. And Fuchs’s music is singular enough that what is going on in his music stands out with a kind of hard-drawn clarity.

The Fifth String Quartet runs about a half hour, with one long movement centered around a theme that winds along at some length.… What does hit me is the quality of the contrapuntal and harmonic thematic development.… The Delray String Quartet sounds great in their performance of what is a very pleasing, moving piece.…

The "Falling Canons," in seven movements, works out some brilliant counterpoint for solo piano, based on a theme from "Falling Man." There is a set of intricate variations, canons, developed out of the chromatic falling theme motif. Christopher O'Riley shines in the solo role.…

"Falling Trio" works out an expanded color palette made available by using a piano trio (piano, violin, cello).… Cascading piano, complemented by long-lined, long-toned figures in the strings leave us grounded, feeling moved and, perhaps, rather transcendent. Trio21 are exemplary on this piece.…

When the music is finished and silence reigns (as much as there can be such a thing where I write) one is left with the feeling that a presence has gone, that as much as music can say what words cannot, that all has been said, that more would add nothing to what has been expressed.

Fuchs delivers an extremely powerful punch with these three works sequenced as they are on the CD. The triumvirate of sounds acts as a kind of monumental remembrance in musical terms. This is a high form of discourse indeed. Recommended!    — Grego Applegate Edwards


American Record Guide, January/February 2013
KENNETH FUCHS: ATLANTIC RIBAND, AMERICAN RHAPSODY, DIVINUM MYSTERIUM
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Michael Ludwig, violin; Paul Silverthorne, viola
Naxos (American Classics 8.559723)

Kenneth Fuchs and I were classmates at Juilliard well over 30 years ago, and I am delighted to hear how he has blossomed imo one of our best Americanist romantics. I’m sure his teacher David Diamond would also be pleased. This splendid program contains four recent orchestral pieces, two with string soloists, and a short overture and should delight conservative listeners and all sympathetic to the style.

Atlantic Riband (2008) is an overture in two parts: an introduction that recurs as coda and two colorful contrasting sections. It was inspired by the transoceanic voyage of a ship containing immigrants to the United States. Dramatic and brilliantly orchestrated, it should put a charge into any program.

American Rhapsody (2008) is a very beautiful, even sublime single movement romance for violin and orchestra. Michael Ludwig plays it appropriately, though a little heavy on the vibrato for me. Nevertheless, it could easily become standard American repertoire for violinists (it complements Aaron Kernis’s also sublime Air.)

Also beautiful is Divinum Mysterium (2008), a single movement for viola and orchestra based on the Protestant hymn tune Of the Father’s Love Begotten, itself based on the 11th Century trope of the work’s title. Copland, Barber, and a little Vaughan Williams … can be heard in the background. Mr. Silverthorne plays it with care and rich tone, and should create many advocates for the piece.

The Concerto Grosso (2009), for string quartet and string orchestra, is built with material from his 1998 Fourth Quartet. In one lively 10-minute movement the work is fresh and engaging, lyrical, and hard to resist. I wish the piece were expanded into more movements to create a more substantial statement.

The program closes with Discover the Wild (2010), a cheery five-minute overture that would make a terrific opening to any program of American orchestral music.

This will be sure to please all who enjoy late century tonal music with a distinctly American accent. Everything is perfectly played by these British players. The music should certainly be played in this country as well.    — Allen Gimbel


Crisis Magazine, November 2, 2012 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: ATLANTIC RIBAND, AMERICAN RHAPSODY, DIVINUM MYSTERIUM
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Michael Ludwig, violin; Paul Silverthorne, viola
Naxos (American Classics 8.559723)

Speaking of open-hearted music, I must bring to your attention the new Naxos CD of Kenneth Fuchs’s orchestral works (8.559723), brilliantly played by the London Symphony Orchestra, under American conductor JoAnn Falletta. Like Aaron Copland, Fuchs (b. 1956) has a way of capturing the stirrings of the human heart and the yearnings of the soul in highly spirited, soaring music.  His works carry within themselves an inimitably American sense of expectancy, of horizons glimpsed and striven for, and, finally, of boldly announced arrivals. He achieves all this within the conventional means of tonality. Orchestrally, he employs a sparkling kind of American Impressionism, though I heard a dash of Benjamin Britten’s Sea Interludes in Atlantic RibandAmerican Rhapsody is, according to Fuchs, a Romance for violin and orchestra. It has a Samuel Barber-like melodic appeal and orchestral lushness to it. If I wanted an English reference point for its soaring solo violin line, I would choose Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending. Violinist Michael Ludwig plays with both elegance and exquisite feeling. So does violist Paul Silverthorne in the lovely Divinum Mysterium, a one movement concerto for viola and orchestra, inspired by a Protestant hymn tune. This is unfailingly appealing and immediately accessible music.    — Robert R. Reilly


allmusic.com, August 28, 2012 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: ATLANTIC RIBAND, AMERICAN RHAPSODY, DIVINUM MYSTERIUM
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Michael Ludwig, violin; Paul Silverthorne, viola
Naxos (American Classics 8.559723)

Kenneth Fuchs … has gained attention on both sides of the Atlantic for broadly appealing compositions in a largely tonal idiom reminiscent in many gestures of the music of Aaron Copland. Two works here, Atlantic Riband and American Rhapsody, are patriotic crowd-pleasers in a long tradition; the former work alludes to the ocean liners that brought so many millions of immigrants to the U.S. Yet Fuchs combines these qualities with a variety of purely abstract procedures that keep you listening after the big tunes wear away. Perhaps the album’s most effective work, not even mentioned in the graphics, is the Concerto Grosso, a sort of Mahlerian take on the Baroque form, setting a string quartet against a string orchestra in a pleasing variety of textures amplified by luscious harmonies. Divinum Mysterium, a viola concerto, is not a vocal work but a development on a piece of plainchant…. The program ends with a vigorous overture, Discover the Wild. Conductor JoAnn Falletta, leading the London Symphony Orchestra, is an ideal ambassador for this kind of music, which anyone sitting at a free outdoor summer concert might enjoy, but which holds up to repeated hearings. Recommended, especially to symphonic programmers.  ***+ — James Manheim


BBC Music Magazine, September 2012
KENNETH FUCHS: ATLANTIC RIBAND, AMERICAN RHAPSODY, DIVINUM MYSTERIUM
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Michael Ludwig, violin; Paul Silverthorne, viola
Naxos (American Classics 8.559723)

Full harmony: Kenneth Fuchs writes tonal orchestral music of great imagination, says Anthony Burton
Kenneth Fuchs — born 1956, professor of composition at the University of Connecticut — writes in a mainstream tonal idiom. He’s a master of orchestral writing: resonantly built-up chords, scurrying string textures, lucid woodwind exchanges, telling interjections from brass and percussion. In this selection of works from the last five years, Atlantic Riband portrays the movement of a majestic transatlantic liner; American Rhapsody for violin and orchestra is wound round a quasi-improvisatory solo line; Divinum Mysterium for viola and orchestra resourcefully explores the possibilities of a hymn tune; the Concerto Grosso makes imaginative use of the combination of string quartet and string orchestra; and Discover the Wild is a short, breezy overture. On Naxos’s third Fuchs recording, everything gets five-star treatment: violinist Michael Ludwig and viola player Paul Silverthorne make the solo parts their own, and the LSO under JoAnn Falletta sounds brilliant in a spacious Abbey Road recording. PERFORMANCE *****  RECORDING ***** — Anthony Burton


Palm Beach ArtsPaper, Palm Beach, Florida, January 17, 2012 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: String Quartet No. 5 (“American”) — world première
Delray String Quartet

The Fifth String Quartet of American composer Kenneth Fuchs, which had its world premiere Sunday afternoon at the Colony Hotel in Delray Beach, is an effective piece of dramatic music first and foremost, with a big-boned grandeur that shares sonic space with an intense and hearfelt elegy.

Fuchs, a professor of composition at the University of Connecticut, grew up in Fort Lauderdale and wrote the work at the behest of the Delray String Quartet, which gave the premiere and will play it again Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The composer said in remarks to an appreciative house last Sunday that the quartet, subtitled American, is a reflection on his country in the post 9-11 era.

Formally, the quartet is laid out in four movements, the outer two essentially in A major and the middle two in the neighborhood of D minor, all with traditional attributes such as sonata-allegro form, a scherzo and a double fugue. Its language is tonal, occasionally minimalist, and highly accessible, with a blue-skies feeling to much of it that derives from Fuchs’ extensive use of counterpoint and individual lines.

All of the material in the quartet is derived from the opening theme, a long-breathed, slow, Coplandesque canon that starts with the first violin and continues down to the cello. It’s one of those themes that promises a lot, and its derivations later in the quartet were clear to discern, again because the solo-line texture Fuchs sets up at the beginning accustoms the ear to single them out….

The first movement sets a difficult challenge for the foursome, dominated as it is by a bustling variation of the theme that requires an athletic bow and precise intonation at a high rate of speed. The effect is one of great optimism and energy, and exciting to hear. Each member attacked the assignment with gusto, building up a big cathedral of sound before the music darkened and set the stage for the scherzo.

The second movement, an agitated Shostakovich-style march, turns into a movement of almost constant motion, with long passages of pizzicati and fast-stepping motifs played in unison by all four members. Early on, the viola plays a dark-hued melody derived from the theme over a nervous pizzicato in the cello that ends up extending for pages; violist Richard Fleischman and cellist Claudio Jaffé played this beautifully, giving it a strong sense of dark energy. This is a powerful, propulsive movement, and it got a fine performance from the quartet.

The third, marked Elegia, again hints at Shostakovich by starting (after a minor-key version of the opening) with a sad-carousel waltz theme in the second violin’s upper registers that gets taken up by the whole ensemble and ultimately turns into an aggressive, sardonic version of itself before what may be the elegy itself appears toward the end of the movement….

The finale returns to the open-prairie feeling of the first, with a fugue subject as close to a fiddle breakdown as it could get, and when all four instruments took their turn at it, the effect was joyful and confident .…

The Colony audience applauded the piece vociferously, and there is no doubt about its ability to engage listeners. Kenneth Fuchs has written a fine piece of music in this quartet, one that could conceivably fill the new-music inclinations of American string quartet concerts in an absorbing way.    — Greg Stepanich


Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, North Carolina, September 12, 2011 (available online)
KENNETH FUCHS: FALLING MAN
(for Baritone Voice and Orchestra, text by Don DeLillo, adapted by J. D. McClatchy) — world première
Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra — Sarah Ioannides, conductor
James Maddalena, baritone

The Ravel piece set up what was undoubtedly the main dish on Saturday’s menu, the world premiere of Kenneth Fuchs’ remarkable work “Falling Man.”

Composers nowadays often find themselves in a bit of a bind: on the one hand, they’re intrigued by the various musical possibilities in the ideas and techniques of the avant-garde composers of the 20th Century; on the other hand, many audience members find music using said ideas and techniques to be ugly and, what’s worse, boring. So composers have to satisfy both their own artistic ambition (after all, if they themselves don’t find their music interesting, why should they bother writing it?) and their audience (if audiences don’t want to hear it, who’s going to listen?).

With “Falling Man,” Fuchs hits both targets squarely. The 18-minute work for baritone and orchestra sets the prologue of Don DeLillo’s celebrated novel of the same name about the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath, as adapted by the American poet J. D. McClatchy. Setting prose rather than poetry offers unique challenges, and Fuchs meets them by dividing the text into several smaller but thematically-related arias which are linked by orchestral interludes. The vocalist’s speech-like rhythms and 12-tone melody are expanded, colored, and sometimes interrupted by orchestral interjections of great beauty and power and no small difficulty.

The evening’s soloist, baritone James Maddalena, is among the world’s most prominent singers of contemporary opera, so it was little surprise that he was magnificent; his fine diction, paired with Twichell’s remarkable acoustics, ensured that every syllable of text projected throughout the auditorium. Under the sure hand of Ioannides the orchestra was just about as magnificent, handling a fiercely difficult score with aplomb throughout the ensemble.    — Christopher Vaneman


Radio Beethoven FM, Santiago, Chile, July 10, 2011 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN (Concerto for Horn and Orchestra)
Symphonic Orchestra of Chile — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Jacek Muzyk, horn

Next came a work that represented a risk, since the author, Kenneth Fuchs, is practically unknown in our country. The work by this composer, age 55, is “Canticle to the Sun,” for horn and orchestra. The soloist was the Polish musician Jacek Muzyk, who showed a great command of the instrument…. His interpretation was important to engaging the attention of the public toward this work, which is very characteristic of the composer’s sound. Fuchs’s music includes brilliant, colorful orchestrations that many compare with Aaron Copland, but the style and organization of the material recalls David Diamond. His thematic resources can seem somewhat thin in some passages, but there is no doubt that this work sustains the listener’s attention.    — Álvaro Gallegos M.


Greenwich Time, Greenwich, Connecticut, April 22, 2011
KENNETH FUCHS: EVENTIDE (Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra) — world première
Greenwich Symphony Orchestra — David Gilbert, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn

Stacy brought a masterful sense of control to the performance. He played as if it were an inspired improvisation, like a meditation in peaceful solitude. The ensemble was also of interest. There were many textures, like the opening sounds played by the section violins, in which overlaid bowings and fingered trills created rich and complicated colors. Alternating between lyrical and textural colors, this concerto moved in variations, closing with a fugato and a quodlibet which were forged from clever melodic transformations.    — Jeffrey Johnson


Greenwich Time, Greenwich, Connecticut, April 20, 2011
KENNETH FUCHS: EVENTIDE (Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra) — world première
Greenwich Symphony Orchestra — David Gilbert, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn

[T]his truly beautiful, oddly American work somehow taught us something new and important about our existence, as a violist played a 3-figure passage, leading to a chiming and sustained close, reminiscent of Samuel Barber and our other great composer of the American essence, Aaron Copland. The audience stood, with cries of "Bravo!" and the composer, called to the stage, embraced both the soloist and the conductor, who congratulated the orchestra and soloists.    — Linda Phillips


Palm Beach ArtsPaper, Palm Beach, Florida, December 29, 2010
KENNETH FUCHS: STRING QUARTET NO. 4
Delray String Quartet

Fuchs, a Broward County native who studied at the University of Miami before moving on to Juilliard, was on hand to discuss his brief but engaging one-movement quartet, subtitled Bergonzi, in honor of the UM-based quartet for whom it was written. It’s a relatively light but tautly constructed piece built on a three-note rising motif first sounded by the viola. That trades off with a gentler three-note motif introduced by the cello, and the music soon expands into a busy, energetic sonic tableau, music that sounds very open and very American.

In the middle, the cello motif is transformed into a moody, expectant theme over a pizzicato version of the three-note opening material; in the last section, the feeling of purposeful energy resumes. It is a fine piece of music, and the Delray played it well….

Despite its speedy tempo and offbeat accents, this is essentially positive, forthright music … it was impressive that the Delray began its season with a piece of recent contemporary American music, which to my mind is the logical core repertory for this quartet.    — G. Stepanich


The Daily Telegram, Adrian, Michigan, April 12, 2010
KENNETH FUCHS: DIVINUM MYSTERIUM
Adrian Symphony Orchestra — John Thomas Dodson, conductor
Paul Silverthorne, viola

This concert featured the world première of Fuchs' viola concerto "Divinum Mysterium"…. And as an ending point for Fuchs' tenure as ASO composer-in-residence, it was entirely appropriate: well-crafted, imaginative, concise, and the farthest along work of his that Adrian audiences have heard.

… Meditative in spots, hauntingly beautiful in others, restlessly energetic in still others, the work builds over its 16-minute time frame to an atmospheric climax. As the work opens up and breathes at that point, the overall effect is one of journeying through a deeply spiritual experience into a place of joy and peace.

And Saturday's audience got to hear it performed by the musician for whom it was written: Paul Silverthorne, principal violist of the London Symphony Orchestra. Silverthorne's performance of the work, which he had a significant role in helping craft, was nothing short of spectacular. His musicianship is extraordinary and his interpretation of the viola's role in this concerto is quite remarkable.

… Here's hoping this isn't the last Adrian sees of Ken Fuchs and his music, because it's been quite a partnership.    — Arlene Bachanov


The Horn Call, journal of the International Horn Society, October 2009
KENNETH FUCHS:
CANTICLE TO THE SUN
FIRE, ICE, AND SUMMER BRONZE
AUTUMN RHYTHM

Kenneth Fuchs is currently enjoying a truly impressive amount of critical acclaim, certainly due in part to Canticle to the Sun (Concerto for French Horn and Orchestra), which was featured on the second recording of his music produced by the London Symphony Orchestra, released in January 2008, and reviewed in the October 2008 edition of The Horn Call.

The concerto’s immense popularity with horn players also speaks volumes. Timothy Jones, for whom it was written, recorded it for the 2008 release in 2006. Rick Todd premièred it in 2008 in Hartford CT, and it has since been performed by David Wick in Norfolk VA, and Randy Gardner in Denver at the 40th International Horn Symposium.… The horn writing is elegant, lyrical, idiomatic, and already well-appreciated by listeners and performers alike.

Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze, the two-movement, twelve-minute idyll for brass quintet is scored for C trumpets, horn, trombone, and bass trombone.… Although the range and tessitura demands are modest, the range of expression (which is greater than the label "idyll" might imply), the ensemble precision required for the rhythmic complexities, and the uniqueness of the expressionist yet tonal style within the brass quintet repertoire would make this work a great addition to a program of demanding brass chamber music.

Autumn Rhythm … is an elegant, lyrical exploration of the colors and textures inspired by the aesthetic of Abstract Expressionism that Fuchs describes as "states of feeling expressed through gesture." …    — Virginia Thompson, West Virginia University


The Daily Telegram, Adrian, Michigan, October 26, 2009
KENNETH FUCHS: ATLANTIC RIBAND
Adrian Symphony Orchestra — John Thomas Dodson, conductor

Now, about "Atlantic Riband" itself. It's been very exciting over the last two seasons to have had the opportunity as an ASO concertgoer to hear the premières of several of Ken Fuchs' works. That sort of thing is a relatively rare privilege for any orchestra anywhere, and it happens in Adrian, and not just once.

And the work itself is quite remarkable. Intended by its composer to evoke the feelings of a transatlantic journey in the age of the great ocean liners — the title is taken from the Blue Riband, a long streamer that during that era was awarded to the ship that crossed the Atlantic the fastest — it certainly does all of that. It opens with a sense of anticipation and bustle as the journey begins, with perhaps even a bit of trepidation woven in at what lies ahead on the crossing and at the destination. Then it moves from there through a whole series of very complex textures, harmonics and rhythms to a triumphant conclusion.

It's a composition that's instantly both musically and emotionally appealing, to say nothing of being a real showpiece for both its composer and the orchestra that plays it. Fuchs’ work is a terrific addition to the modern classical music repertoire.    — Arlene Bachanov


The Daily Telegram, Adrian, Michigan, May 31, 2009
KENNETH FUCHS: CONCERTO GROSSO (based on String Quartet No. 4)
Adrian Symphony Orchestra — John Thomas Dodson, conductor
Quatuor Nouveau, string quartet

The Fuchs work, which had its première Friday night, is a string quartet which the composer turned into a concerto grosso for this concert. Having first heard the string-quartet version and now the concerto grosso, I have to say I much prefer this new version. It preserves what makes the string quartet so interesting while adding heft and richness. At the same time, the parts of the quartet that I find somewhat musically harsh are softened by the additional instrumental forces.

The work, all of 10 minutes long but packing a lot of musical ideas into those 10 minutes, begins with a nervous energy and moves from there through passages that are first almost hypnotically mystical and then playful enough to have come off of Mozart’s pen if he were writing 21st-century American music (well, more likely, off of Mozart’s computer in that instance, but you get the point) before coming to a brisk conclusion.

It’s dramatic, very interesting, very smart music, and eminently listenable. And on Friday night, the ASO and the quartet that joined it for this concert, Quatuor Nouveau (violinists Judith Teasdle and Joe Deller, violist Jessica Zelinski and cellist Brandon Cota), absolutely gave it a terrific rendering …    — Arlene Bachanov


The Daily Telegram, Adrian, Michigan, April 27, 2009
KENNETH FUCHS: INTO THE WILD, AMERICAN RHAPSODY
Adrian Symphony Orchestra — John Thomas Dodson, conductor
Janet Sung, violin

Sung also took center stage later in the program in a piece written by Fuchs especially for her to play at this concert, a work for violin and orchestra titled “American Rhapsody.” When I first heard this piece at a rehearsal this week, I very quickly became enamored of it, and that feeling was only solidified at the performance itself. This is just a lovely work — contemplative, rather melancholy in spots, and music that’s just really in the moment, so to speak; it evokes a picture of stillness and serenity, rather as though you were sitting on your porch in the morning with a cup of coffee, watching the sunrise. And it was very beautifully played by both Sung and the orchestra.

The other Ken Fuchs world-première piece on the program was “Discover the Wild,” an overture written by him for a PBS nature documentary that, due to funding difficulties, never got completed nor did the overture get recorded. Dodson used it, appropriately given its structure, as the concert’s opening work.

Whereas “American Rhapsody” is quietly meditative, “Discover the Wild” is all about action. A listener gets propelled across the wide-open spaces of the American West in a way reminiscent of Copland’s “Rodeo” or “Billy the Kid” or, okay, of the theme music for “The Magnificent Seven.” It’s eminently listenable music, and deserves, as “American Rhapsody” does but in a different way of course, to be part of any orchestra’s repertoire. It really would be right at home in a pops-concert setting.

The fact that the ASO was presenting a world-première work (well, two world-première works, of course) isn’t especially noteworthy. Nor was the fact that the composer himself was here to work with the orchestra and to be at the concert. What was unique about Sunday is that the concert marked the start of a multiple-work partnership between the ASO and Fuchs. That’s really a rare thing for any orchestra to undertake. And if the rest of the music the orchestra performs of his is as excellent as these first two pieces were, ASO audiences are in for quite a treat over the long term.   — Arlene Bachanov


Classics Today, July 8, 2008 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

Kenneth Fuchs writes colorful and attractive music that falls gratefully on the ear but has sufficient backbone and variety to reward repeated listening. United Artists is a zippy concert-opener full of orchestral brilliance and good tunes. Fuchs’ willingness, in common with many contemporary composers, to indulge a fondness for tuned percussion (bells, glockenspiel, etc.) gives the piece a certain Hollywood glitz, but that’s no crime in such extrovert music.

The centerpiece of this program consists of three chamber works, all subtitled “Idyll”, for brass quintet, woodwind quintet, and a mixed quintet of strings and winds. The latter work is surely the most interesting, perhaps because of its more varied timbral possibilities, but it almost goes without saying that anything called “Idyll”, from Siegfried’s onward, lasts about 20 percent longer than it needs to. Fuchs doesn’t quite avoid this trap, and I wouldn’t suggest playing all three of them back to back, but there’s no denying the music’s finely honed ensemble writing and abundance of quality ideas.

Saving the best for last, Canticle to the Sun is a horn concerto written for LSO principal Timothy Jones, who plays it extremely well. The piece is lovely — full of good tunes taking full advantage of the solo instrument’s lyrical and bravura possibilities — and scored with a fine sense of the horn’s ability to combine and interact with the various orchestral sections. JoAnn Falletta leads the LSO in performances that offer the right feeling of proprietary confidence, and all five pieces are very well recorded, resulting in a worthwhile disc, by a composer certainly worth watching (and hearing).   — Artistic quality 8 / Sound quality 9    — David Hurwitz


Audiophile Audition, June 25, 2008 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

Successful follow up to Fuchs’s previous Grammy-nominated Naxos CD  Based on two Grammy nominations for the first disc of Fuchs’s music that Naxos produced in 2005 with the LSO and Falletta, the company has apparently decided to see if lighting will strike twice in the same place. Based on what I hear here, it may .... I have made no bones about my admiration for JoAnn Falletta, and the LSO is playing like the best orchestra in the world these days, so any disc will stand a chance of success with these two ingredients. Add to the mix the amazing first chair hornist of the LSO and a concerto that serves him well, based on the poem by Francis of Assisi (“All creatures of our God and King”, etc.), and you have a winning combination. This work is startling in its technical proficiencies, based on a four-note motif that is battered and transfigured endlessly (and deliciously, and even hints of Britten in places, particularly in the scoring), and has a flowing, graceful feel to the phrasing. This is an important work, and horn players especially can be glad.

Quiet in the Land is scored for flute, English horn, clarinet, viola, and cello, and is a delightful meditation on the expanses of the Midwestern United States. Fuchs indicates it was written during the time of Gulf War II, and as such provides a needed and responsible respite from hyperbole while reflecting on the true spirit of this land. Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze seems to me the weakest work here, though by no means negligible. It is the third work of the composer inspired by the abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler, and perhaps that is the problem; the music is seems disjointed without any sort of tangible connectedness. Nicely scored, but ultimately falling just short of the meaningfulness present in these other pieces.

Autumn Rhythm is for woodwind quintet, and successfully captures the spirit of the painting of the same name, by American iconoclast Jackson Pollack, whose fantastically beautiful “drip” paintings are among the collective genius of American art. This work is brilliantly scored for the perfect ensemble, as it seems like only winds could successfully provide both the lyrical and the spiky moments so needed for such a portrayal as this. United Artists is a work for orchestra inspired by the first recording sessions that Fuchs had with the LSO — it is an effective opener to this disc, broad spaced and nicely fanfare-ish in nature.

The sound is first class here, and Naxos has done a fine service by presenting more of Fuchs’s muse to the public. A definite winner all around!    — Steven Ritter


From the “Moderated Classical Music List,” April 2008
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

Tonality redefined  Kenneth Fuchs studied with, among others, Babbitt, Diamond, and Persichetti. In sound, the bustling Persichetti exercises the dominating influence, but Babbitt probably wields more in Fuchs’s habits of construction.

Most immediately, the sound of Fuchs’s music grabs your attention in ways similar to Copland’s. Bright, lean sonorities — high strings, widely-spaced chords, big-shoulder brass, and so on — prevail. Yet, also like Copland, Fuchs has more to offer than orchestration — namely, real matter and argument.

Fuchs builds almost all the scores here out of limited sets of intervals or even specific pitches: interval-rows and pitch-rows, if you will. It’s all tonal, even mainly diatonic, although not really minimalist, if you care. However, the means allow Fuchs to take an individual approach to tonality. Key-change means less than rhythmic and textural change. The piece takes shape as we hear the basic building blocks — like individual tiles in a mosaic — slipping into place. The danger that Fuchs sometimes courts is that he concentrates on the “puzzle” aspects of a piece instead of its rhetorical flow. At least, that’s what I felt with woodwind quintet, Autumn Rhythm, inspired by the Jackson Pollack painting. Incidentally, a noticeable part of Fuchs’s music takes its inspiration from post-World War II painting. The work is built on minor second, minor third, perfect fifth, minor seventh, and their inversions — major seventh, major sixth, and so on. As one listens, one notices which intervals he’s fooling with, but I didn’t, at least, go anywhere. The music neither transformed nor transported me. It was a lot of content and little meaning.

Nevertheless, everything else on the program I liked very much. United Artists, a curtain-raiser tribute to the London Symphony Orchestra, makes a joyful noise, combining the enthusiasm of the outdoors-y Copland with the propulsion of John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine.

Quiet in the Land, a mixed quintet, works the Copland American Pastoral vein and evokes open skies. Fuchs wrote it in Oklahoma, amid the plains. He has also stated that since he began it when the Iraq war broke out, how much quiet there really was in the U.S. and whether any of the disturbance made it into the work. I couldn’t hear any, although I will say that the piece gives you the feeling of the big sky without wallowing in sentimentality.

Fuchs based his brass quintet — Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze — on two paintings by Helen Frankenthaler. Pieces for brass quintet usually fall into two categories: flashy, extrovert glory or introverted meditation, but Fuchs manages to have it both ways. Half of the first movement, “Fire and Ice,” (based on the pitch row D# E G C B D) bursts with fanfare-like phrases, while the latter half (with the brass muted) is subdued. The second movement, “Summer Bronze” (pitch row: E G C B A F), gives the French horn a long cantabile line against an Impressionistic shimmer of brass — the satisfying torpor of a summer day. One can also consider the quintet a mini-concerto for French horn, since that instrument takes the lead at almost every opportunity and plays against the mass of its brothers.

On the other hand, Canticle to the Sun is a full-blown horn concerto, written especially for the LSO’s principal hornist, Timothy Jones. Perhaps as a salute to Jones’s national origins, Fuchs takes the hymn “All creatures of our God and King” (tune: Lasst uns erfreuen), a paraphrase of St. Francis and harmonized by Vaughan Williams for the groundbreaking English Hymnal in 1906, and essentially plays with it. Fuchs calls it “fantasy variations,” as opposed to a formal variation set, because little marks individual variations. But don’t expect another Vaughan Williams Tallis-like treatment. Instead, Fuchs slices and dices the tune down to characteristic intervals (we should be used to this from him by now) and combines and recombines. You hardly ever, if at all, hear the melody entire. Nevertheless, this is a gorgeous work, especially its ecstatic opening and conclusion. Parts of the tune peek through the orchestral glitter and shimmer, like stars through the Aurora borealis.

Falletta and the LSO do a very fine job indeed. The composer should be thrilled. I hesitate to call the LSO the best orchestra in London only because there are so many others that compete at its level. Jones is a wonderfully lyric player, with an intense singing line. At least, that’s mainly what Fuchs seemed to respond to in his playing. A winner in Naxos’s “American Classics” series.   — Steve Schwartz


Fanfare, July/August 2008
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

American composer, conductor, and music administrator Kenneth Fuchs (b. 1956) earned his degrees from the University of Miami and Juilliard and holds claim to an impressive ballot of teachers — Milton Babbitt, David Diamond, Vincent Persichetti, and David Del Tredici, among others. Currently, Fuchs serves as professor of composition at the University of Connecticut. His work list is quite extensive, embracing a wide range of musical styles in both instrumental and vocal forms.

The current disc continues a theme of interest to Fuchs and Falletta they have both visited together before; and that is musical imagery called forth by specific works in the graphic arts. A previous Naxos release, reviewed in 29:3, contained Fuchs’s Out of the Dark for French horn and orchestra, a sort of Pictures at an Exhibition in proto-concerto form inspired by three canvases from the hand of abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler, who here makes a slightly more subdued and gentler appearance in Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze. The “Ice” section of the piece, with all five brass instruments muted, creates an unusual sound that I find not cold, bright, and refractive of light like a diamond — an image I sometimes associate with Sibelius — but nocturnal and secretive. As always, Fuchs relies upon modern, somewhat eclectic styles and techniques to achieve results that fall upon the ears without protest.

United Artists was written in 2006 as a tribute to the London Symphony Orchestra. It’s a busy and sometimes brassy fanfare type piece that highlights the various sections of the orchestra in a way that reminded me of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, albeit in American jeans and T-shirt rather than a penguin suit. I should think it would make an effective overture to a pops concert or curtain raiser for theater event.

Quiet in the Land is, according to Fuchs, “a sonic ode to the expansive landscapes and immense arching sky of the great Midwestern Plains.” Hmm, where have we heard this sort of thing before? Copland? William Schuman? Again, Fuchs writes music that is not exactly unoriginal but that is clearly suggestive and derivative of classic Americana models. The piece lives up to its title, with beautifully scored parts for the mixed wind quintet ensemble.…

In New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, there hangs an enormous creation, 8.75 feet high by 17.25 feet wide, titled Autumn Rhythm, by Jackson Pollock.… Fortunately, Fuchs has not followed Pollock’s example by dripping ink on a piece of manuscript paper. His piece of the same title is a 13-minute tone poem of sorts that comes across, even if it wasn’t intended to, as a tongue-in-cheek, good-natured, funning poke at Pollock’s pretentious posturing. Fuchs’s quirky, sputtering rhythms and sudden odd juxtapositions of instruments called to mind Gunther Schuller’s “The Twittering Machine” from his Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee, a delightful work, by the way, that could do with a new recording.

Finally, we come to Fuchs’s concerto for French horn and orchestra. The work takes its title, Canticle to the Sun, from a hymn text originally composed by St. Francis of Assisi, circa 1225. Fuchs bases the concerto on a setting of the text to a tune found in the Geistliche Kirchengesang, dated 1623. In 1906, Vaughan Williams harmonized the tune.… There’s a lot of Americana at its core, which is not to denigrate it in any way. It’s a masterfully crafted work, with a horn part that any horn player would relish. Timothy Jones does himself and Fuchs proud. Nor should JoAnn Falletta’s contribution to this enterprise be overlooked. As usual, she proves an adept leader who happens to be especially sympathetic to 20th-century American music.

Naxos’s sound, as expected, is excellent. Recommended to the receptive.    — Jerry Dubins


American Record Guide, May/June 2008
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

Kenneth Fuchs studied at Juilliard with Diamond and Persichetti, absorbing that 40’s and 50’s Amercanist spirit still in the halls back then. The music here is soundly tonal, resolutely conservative, and devoid of abrasion. Half of the pieces are for orchestra; the other half is chamber music.

United Artists (2006) is a joyous, highly cinematic opener for orchestra. Mr. Fuchs is a fine orchestrator, and the LSO responds enthusiastically. The three “idylls” for chamber quintets are beautifully played by LSO members. Quiet in the Land (2003) is a peaceful bit of Americana for mixed quintet of winds and strings.

The next two of these pieces were inspired by visual art. Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze (1986) is a two-movement essay for brass quintet on works of Helen Frankenthaler (it is her sunny silkscreen that graces the jewel box). The two movement’s characters are fanfare-like and pensive. The second of these works, Autumn Rhythm (2006) for woodwind quintet, takes its title from the painting by Jackson Pollock. In three casually structured, improvisatory sections, the piece retains the composer’s Amercanist language while simulating Pollock’s drips and random motion. Like all of these pieces, the emphasis is on optimistic lyricism, not at all of our time (or Pollock’s, for that matter). All of these pieces should take their place in the university chamber music repertoire, sure to be enjoyed by players and audiences alike, especially if played as well as they are here.

The best is saved for last with Canticle to the Sun (2005), a vivacious horn concerto written for LSO principal Timothy Jones. The 20-minute, single-movement piece is based on a hymn tune from the Geistliche Kirchengesang, set in 1906 by Vaughan Williams but mostly sung today in William Draper’s 1925 version (“All Creatures of Our God and King”). The concerto is thoroughly cheerful, warm, and delighted with life — an unusual description for most music and art today. Soloist Jones is a formidable virtuoso and puts forth the work with stunning assurance. The orchestral works in particular are good reasons to pick up this disc. Notes by the composer.   — Allen Gimbel


BBC Music Magazine, May 2008
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

Naxos’s second disc of music by Kenneth Fuchs was recorded, like the first, by the London Symphony Orchestra and JoAnn Falletta. The full orchestra plays United Artists, written in tribute to its own virtuosity, and provides a glittering backdrop to its principal horn Timothy Jones in Canticle to the Sun, a fantasia on a hymn tune; different quintets of LSO players play three chamber works, Autumn Rhythm, Quiet in the Land, and Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze, all subtitled “idyll.” Everything’s very affirmative and major-key, and markedly lacking in tension (****).   — Anthony Burton


Inside Catholic, March 31, 2008
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

Another composer with whom I have been in touch is Kenneth Fuchs. It began with a Crisis review of his first Naxos CD, featuring his exhilarating An American Place (for Orchestra), brilliantly written to express the “brash optimism of the American spirit.” Fuchs contacted me to suggest that I listen to his string quartets on an Albany Records CD. I found them to be among the finest American quartets I have heard.

Like Gerber, Fuchs is an exemplar of the recovery of American music.…

A new Naxos CD … provides an expanding picture of Fuchs’s talents. The CD begins with United Artists, a scintillating tribute to the London Symphony Orchestra, which Fuchs came to admire during its recording of his first Naxos CD. United Artists is a five-minute fanfare that has something of the vivacious spirit of Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide or of one of Malcolm Arnold’s spirited confections. This is an excellent public celebration that lets the orchestra strut its stuff.

Quiet in the Land is as interior a piece as United Artists is an exterior one in spirit. This mixed quintet for strings and winds moves into Samuel Barber/Aaron Copland territory with its mellifluous melody and gentle, rippling beauty. Fuchs calls it “a sonic ode to the expansive landscapes and immense arching sky of the great Midwestern Plains.” As a Midwesterner, I can attest that this scenery evokes a deep sense of yearning and expectation. Fuchs captures these feelings with real poignancy. This twelve-minute piece is a reflective gem.

What continually impresses is the level of refinement in the writing. This man does not have to shout to make himself heard. As I have noticed in his work before, there is a sense of ease in his music. By this I do not mean easiness, but a calm confidence in what he is doing and in the quality of his material. Like Gerber, he is endowed with a major melodic gift. Additionally, he is not afraid to take the time to let things develop with a sense of natural growth. In Autumn Rhythm, he captures some of the insouciant breeziness that only a master like Malcolm Arnold could achieve in his wind writing. This is another exquisite gem.

The longest and last composition on the CD is Canticle to the Sun, a concerto for French horn and orchestra (2005). This work catches the kind of Celtic magic and orchestral glitter that I used to hear in the work of the late Welsh composer William Mathias. Fuchs makes a gloriously long-lined melody for the French horn out of the hymn tune to “All Creatures of our God and King.” This outwardly celebratory, declamatory work is infused with inner joy and spirit. Listen to it, or to any of these works, and you will know what Fuchs means when he says, “I make no apologies for writing from the heart.” No apologies needed; this is the vindication.    — Robert R. Reilly


Choral Journal (journal of the American Choral Directors Association), March 2008
KENNETH FUCHS: IMMIGRANTS STILL
SSAATB divisi
Yelton Rhodes Music YR4406

This setting of Richard Wilbur’s poem is filled with harmonic color and compositional ingenuity. It is a beautiful model of modern choral music that works to convey a meaningful text using shifting harmonies, colorful dissonance, and dynamic contrast.…

Fuchs has provided us with a challenging work that thrives on the interplay of voices and the traditional techniques of canon and word painting. This unaccompanied work is framed with sections that layer the voices in rich harmony. A significant portion of the text is set using canonic techniques that provide a sense of motion and convey textual meaning. Text painting is clearly articulated through a fascinating ostinato in the men’s voices using the word “water” in mm. 65–82.

This work would be appropriate for advanced choirs with meter changes and the juxtaposition of duple and triple rhythms posing a challenge. It has great educational value because of Fuchs’s varied compositional techniques and the text is very meaningful as it ends with the phrase: “We are immigrants still, who travel in time, Bound where the thought of America beckons; But we hold our course, and the wind is with us.”  — William R. Green, Cleveland, Tennessee


The Gramophone, March 2008
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

An American’s salute to the LSO who again impress in his engaging music  Fuchs was so stunned by the legendary expertise of the LSO in playing at sight for a recording that he wrote United Artists as a short tribute. It opens this second Naxos CD; a series of chamber works follows, and the disc closes with Canticle to the Sun, a horn concerto in which the British connection continues with the soloist Timothy Jones from the LSO.

United Artists is a kind of fanfare to the orchestra, who obviously enjoyed it — the idiom stems from Copland and early Carter. Quiet in the Land for mixed string and wind quintet is contemplative in mood, generally music of low density suitable for illustration. This aspect comes to the fore in Autumn Rhythm, inspired by the paintings of Jackson Pollock; it would make an apt soundtrack for a series of his pictures.

Canticle to the Sun is based on the familiar hymn-tune “All Creatures of our God and King.” This is an imaginative idea where the soloist emerges from a tinkling backdrop and retains clear contact with the melody throughout, although it is never stated in full. The concerto adds up to a pastoral idyll with occasional spots for the timpani and lyrical cadenzas — all neatly played.    — Peter Dickinson


The Scotsman, February 29, 2008 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

There’s a trend among today’s American composers to write music that is modern-sounding but easy on the ear. Perhaps Hollywood has something to do with it, or simply that Americans are maybe a bit more conservative in their outlook. Kenneth Fuchs’s music — he is in his early 50s — has that inoffensive trait. From sounds that have their roots in the expansive soundscapes of Copland and his mildly angular lyricism, Fuchs constructs delicately effusive scores, several of which, for varying ensembles, appear in this attractive survey of his music. It’s part of Naxos’s illuminating American Classics series, and features all and parts of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) under the direction of JoAnn Falletta. The full ensemble opens the disc with one of the composer’s most recent orchestral works — United Artists — and ends it with a horn concerto, Canticle to the Sun, specifically written for the LSO’s Timothy Jones and based on the traditional hymn tune to “All Creatures of Our God and King.” Both underline the darting filmic qualities of Fuchs’s style, a restless energy that combines virtuosity and clarity of texture with softness of touch. In many ways, though, the most interesting sounds appear in the reflective Quiet in the Land, Autumn Rhythm and Fire, Ice and Summer Bronze, all written for smaller chamber ensembles, which glow with inner warmth. An attractive disc from a very listenable composer.


MusicWeb International, February 2008 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: CANTICLE TO THE SUN, UNITED ARTISTS
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559335)

Bargain of the Month   Kenneth Fuchs is fortunate indeed to have not one but two discs of his music recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. The first, in 2003, was nominated for two Grammys in 2005 and the second, recorded in 2006, should do well too, such is the quality of both the music and music-making. Holding it all together in the orchestral pieces and the mixed quintet is conductor JoAnn Falletta, who made such a strong impression in her recent disc of Respighi (review).

United Artists, the first item on the disc, was written specifically for the LSO as a gesture of thanks for their earlier recording of Fuchs’s works (Naxos 8.559224). At its core is a four-note motif, presented first in the Coplandesque opening fanfare. But this isn’t derivative music; indeed, the composer’s distinctive “voice” is evident from the outset, and his flair for orchestral colours and sheer lyricism shine through in this atmospheric opener.

Quiet in the Land is another of those vast musical landscapes that might provoke comparisons with Copland, yet Fuchs’s evocation of the Midwestern Plains just as the Iraq war was beginning is rather more complex and ambiguous in its sentiments. As the composer writes in the liner notes, “I wondered how quiet the spirit of our land might be”.

Even without this programme the opening bars hint at harmony, subtly undermined by vague discord — just listen to that quiet, agitated figure that begins at 1:30, beneath the more lyrical and expansive melody above. It is such lucid, “hear-through” writing, yet it’s full of warmth. The members of the LSO manage to bring out both these aspects of the score, blending precision with feeling. And what a haunting close, too.

The recording venue — St Luke’s in London’s Old Street — is very well captured by the engineers, with no hint of brittleness or edge. The musicians seem ideally placed, too, which is particularly welcome in Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze for brass quintet. Subtitled an “Idyll … after two works on paper by Helen Frankenthaler” the first movement yokes together two eternal opposites — fire (the restless first section) and ice (the more muted second section).

There seems to be an underlying creative tension in some of these pieces, perhaps an attempt to reconcile musical and emotional extremes. For instance, in Summer Bronze the music is strangely mercurial — now lyrical, now dissonant, now both. But it’s that other dichotomy, between outward virtuosity and inner feeling, that these seasoned players — always secure, always poised — convey so well.

Based on a painting by Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm does contain some jazzy snippets, but the emphasis seems to be on sonorities, with long, lyrical melodic lines and, at times, a quirky bass. It is a strangely “in-between” piece; to use the autumn analogy, summer is not quite done, yet winter is on its way. In his notes Fuchs describes how the two states are drawn together and, indeed, how one becomes the other: “An unusual aspect of this composition is that in its final section the flute, oboe, and clarinet metamorphose into their lower — perhaps autumnal — counterparts, the alto flute, English horn, and bass clarinet.” It’s a remarkable sleight of hand, deftly constructed and seamlessly executed.

Canticle of the Sun — a hymn tune based on 13th-century texts by St Francis of Assisi — is built on a four-note motif. Written for the LSO’s principal horn player, Timothy Jones, this 20-minute gem has a radiant, all-embracing optimism that is just irresistible. Indeed, it is not unlike a stained glass window, all those fragments of high colour glowing in the light behind. But at the centre of it all is Jones’s supple and passionate playing, surely as seductive a performance of this piece as we are ever likely to hear.

As with Respighi’s Church Windows, Falletta displays a sense of line and phrase that is most welcome in this music. And while I’ve grumbled about the sound on some Naxos releases I’m prepared to eat humble pie on this one. The engineers have done an exceptional job capturing the sound of the LSO at St Luke’s; what a pleasant change from the dry-as-dust Barbican.

Early days, I know, but this could be one of my discs of 2008.   — Dan Morgan


American Record Guide, November/December 2007
KENNETH FUCHS: UNITED ARTISTS
Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor
Mission San Juan Bautista, California

If every piece of architecture had its own inherent sound, Mission San Juan Bautista would be heard for miles. The wood-and-plaster, primitively painted structure has a resounding acoustic like none other I’ve experienced.… Kenneth Fuchs’s United Artists (2006) was a perfect fit for the church. It was a tribute to the musicians of the London Symphony, and the short work’s dramatic, resounding chords and gloriously ringing orchestral flourishes constitute a modern fanfare of sorts. The composer’s beaming face at the work’s conclusion matched the bright, upbeat heralds of this euphonic crowd-pleaser that was given the royal treatment by the orchestra   — Jason Victor Serinus


Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 17, 2007
KENNETH FUCHS: UNITED ARTISTS
Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor
Mission San Juan Bautista, California

Sunday’s concert at the Mission opened with the world première of Kenneth Fuchs’s energetic “United Artists.” Bright and upbeat, its music filled the Mission with bracing fanfares and thunderous timpani cascades. A lyrically sweeping melody line spotlighting various orchestra sections and soloists intertwined with itself between joyous bold statements.   — Phyllis Rosenblum


artssf.com, August 13-20, 2007 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: UNITED ARTISTS
Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor
Mission San Juan Bautista, California

East Coast composer Kenneth Fuchs … contributed a concert overture, “United Artists,” a lively and exuberant exercise that dances along at high speed with numerous “echoes” of a four-note theme.   — Paul Hertelendy


Crisis Magazine, January 2007 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: STRING QUARTETS 2, 3, 4
American String Quartet
Albany Records TROY 480

I only just caught up with a stunningly good Albany Records CD of String Quartets Nos. 2, 3, and 4 (TROY 480) by Kenneth Fuchs, released in 2001. I wrote an enthusiastic review of Fuchs’s ebullient orchestral work, An American Place, for Naxos recently; as a result, he contacted me and suggested I listen to his chamber music. I am glad that he did; these are among the best pieces of American chamber music I have encountered. Fuchs writes with a Janáček-like wildness, employs at times a piercing intimacy of a highly lyrical nature, and has a haunting Bernard Hermann-like quality to some of his themes and mysterious ostinatos. It is hard to imagine a better or more gripping performance than this one by the American String Quartet.   — Robert R. Reilly


Crisis Magazine, June 2006 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

I will close with something on the more exuberant side: Kenneth Fuchs’s An American Place (for Orchestra), written to express the “brash optimism of the American spirit.” This it does in a very appealing — in fact, exhilarating — musical outburst, which Fuchs builds to on John Adams-like chugging ostinatos and beautiful, soaring melodies. Fuchs is obviously trying to write in a popular style, and he succeeds without being cloying. Also on this Naxos release (8.559224) is Fuchs’s Eventide, a concerto for English horn, harp, percussion, and string orchestra. It is another immediately appealing work: enchanting, exquisitely fine, and gorgeously melodic. In Out of the Dark, Fuchs shows that he can write dissonant, thorny music to reflect upon Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings. However, by the third movement, Summer Banner, he returns to his gracious, mellifluous style. This is all beautifully played by the London Symphony Orchestra, under JoAnn Falletta.   — Robert R. Reilly


Barnes & Noble (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

After hearing his highly accomplished and attractive music on this disc, you may find yourself wondering where Kenneth Fuchs has been hiding himself. The answer: Oklahoma, where the Juilliard-educated composer completed a lengthy term as director of the University’s School of Music in 2005. The Great Plains seem to have been a fine muse, judging from recent works like An American Place and Eventide. The former reveals a style that owes a great deal — though by no means everything — to minimalism; the gently chugging rhythm of the opening, and the melodies that gradually evolve out of it, will remind most listeners of John Adams, but after this initial impetus the music travels through a wide expressive and coloristic range. More uniform in mood, but also the most winning composition on the program, is Eventide, a gorgeously lyrical concerto for English horn. Written for the New York Philharmonic’s English horn player Thomas Stacy, who performs it here as well, Eventide unfolds slowly in dreamlike fashion, its melodies alluding to spirituals like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” with the solo instrument basking in its characteristically mournful yet comforting tone. With the chamber orchestra suite Out of the Dark (1984), inspired by abstract paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, we get to sample an earlier phase of Fuchs’ career. Slightly harsher and more angular, it also includes some of the most expressive music on the disc, with especially potent solo writing for the French horn. JoAnn Falletta conducted its première in 1985, and she leads the London Symphony through brilliant performances of all three works on this disc. Much credit is due to Naxos’ American Classics series, which has become one of the main venues to allow living composers like Kenneth Fuchs a much-deserved hearing.   — Scott Paulin


Fanfare Magazine, January/February 2006
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

… Part tone-poem, part rhapsody, part concerto for orchestra, [An American Place] is nearly 19 minutes of a rich and vibrant tapestry of ever-changing moods and colors, a brilliant tour-de-force of evocative melody and masterful orchestration.

Beautiful as An American Place may be, the real gem on this program, at least for me, is Eventide, nominally a concerto for English horn and orchestra. To be sure, not every one of its 21 minutes had me enthralled — I particularly did not care for the passage beginning at 9:17, and again at 12:30 that, through some combination of over-blowing or simultaneous humming and blowing, makes the English horn sound like a kazoo. But the moment is short-lived, and the music returns to its opening mood of a lonely pastoral dreamscape, animated by a more agitated, contrapuntally developed mid-section, before returning to its earlier quietude. Thomas Stacy, who currently occupies the solo English horn chair at the New York Philharmonic, plays with remarkable control and beauty of tone.

Pursuing a theme she began with her “Pictures at a Gallery” CD (reviewed in 27:4) — works inspired by paintings — JoAnn Falletta concludes the present program with Fuchs’s Out of the Dark, a three-movement suite for chamber orchestra that draws its inspiration from three large canvases by Helen Frankenthaler — Heart of November, Out of the Dark, and Summer Banner, which are also the titles of the movements. Frankenthaler is generally classified as an abstract expressionist, and so it seems only fitting that Fuchs’s musical rendering should turn towards 12-tone and serial techniques. At the outset, at least, the music is a bit more austere and perhaps not as immediately palatable as are the other two works on the CD. But in the end, Fuchs returns to a warmer clime, concluding on a note of peaceful repose. The work features an important solo role for French horn, which is admirably played here by the first chair hornist of the LSO, Timothy Jones.

A superb introduction then to yet another voice to be heard in Naxos’s “American Classics” series. Recommended.   — Jerry Dubins


Classics Today, November 2005 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

Kenneth Fuchs’ An American Place is a bright, big-hearted, neo-romantic work in the style of John Adams’ Harmonielehre. Adams’ finale is an unmistakable influence as both works open with motor rhythms chugging along in the strings while woodwinds and high percussion chirp and tingle above as the music builds to a spirit-lifting sunrise. Fuchs pretty much goes his own way from there as the piece travels through a series of engaging episodes — some featuring wonderful brass writing — and closes in a similar atmosphere to its opening. Eventide is a concerto for English horn, harp, percussion, and strings inspired by Negro spirituals such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Mary Had a Baby,” though Fuchs does not quote them directly, at least not in a manner that’s easily recognizable. The work is reminiscent of the pastoral mood-music of Vaughan Williams, though the English horn writing occasionally brings to mind jazz saxophonist Kenny G — a tribute perhaps to the free spirited, highly virtuosic playing of soloist Thomas Stacy.

The pleasantries end with Out of the Dark, which is a set of three pieces based on works by expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler. “Heart of November” begins in thorny string paroxysms, while “Out of the Dark” moves somewhat away from the gnarly harmonies of the previous piece. “Summer Banner” gradually reintroduces consonance, and the work ends in a blissful, subdued atmosphere (with fine solo work by hornist Timothy Jones). JoAnn Falletta leads first-rate performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, captured in excellent sound — another fine addition to Naxos’ American Classics series.   — Artistic quality 9 / Sound quality 10   — Victor Carr Jr.


BBC Music Magazine, October 2005
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

Kenneth Fuchs intended his 2002 orchestral score An American Place to reflect “the palette of musical sounds that have developed in the United States during the last hundred years.” Juddering minimalist rhythms at the outset, an open-prairie Copland soundscape, and the argumentative stringency of a Schuman or Harris can all be discerned in the composition, but it is no mere cut-and-paste assemblage. Its 19 minutes are cogently argued, tuneful, and bear a strong individual imprint. More pastoral, more alluringly sensuous in its gestures is Eventide, a concerto for English horn, creamily played here by New York Philharmonic principal Thomas Stacy. Out of the Dark, a chamber piece, draws on a more self-consciously modernistic idiom, but has the same fluidity of communication. An interesting account of how this CD came to be recorded is at www.kennethfuchs.com/lso.htm — it is worth reading. The LSO does a splendid job of basically sight-reading this unfamiliar music.   — Terry Blain


MusicWeb International, October 2005 (online review)
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

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 première of this piece with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in 2005. The latter section (“Finale scherzando”) suggests the “brash optimism of the American spirit.”

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.

Eventide, a 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 into 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.   — Colin Clarke


MusicWeb International, September 2005 (complete review)
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

With this edition in its ever-expanding and consistently intriguing American Classics series, Naxos introduces the music of contemporary composer, Kenneth Fuchs. There are three works that span his creative life from the mid-1980s to the present day.

Fuchs is of the generation of composers that grew up under the tutelage of the American neo-romantics (Fuchs’ teachers included David Diamond) caught between the pull of the atonal avant-garde and the fascination of minimalism. Fuchs’ idiom is strongly influenced by the latter, and he brings to it an ear for orchestral colour and the nuances of the American sounds that permeate the works of Copland, among others.

On An American Place:

The first work on the disc is the most interesting. An American Place is a tone poem for large orchestra. It is as colourful as it is quintessentially American — in a soft-edged, optimistic, mid-Western kind of way.… The influence of Fuchs’ fellow American composers is certainly strong, with hints of Adams, Copland, Sondheim and Diamond, among others, surfacing in the score. There are also more international influences at play. There is for example a reference to Bartók in the clarinet runs from Bluebeard’s “lake of tears” at around 11:08, which Fuchs contrasts wonderfully with bluesy brass. To my ears at least, there’s also a nod towards the sound-world of Walton from 12:48. However, while referential, the music never strays into pastiche. Fuchs’ use of contrasting rhythmic motifs in the strings and tuned percussion and his characterful writing for woodwinds and brass are quite individual. The orchestral playing is exemplary and the conducting sympathetic and true.

On Eventide:

A concerto for cor anglais in one movement, it seems to fall into three sections. There is a pastoral opening that conjures an atmosphere not too distant from that of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. This is followed by an eerie second section from about 6:58, with gentle dissonances in the strings and over-blowing of the cor anglais darkening the mood. Then a cadenza at 11:43 leads into a rhythmically driven finale which fades, after recalling the two previous sections, into resignation.… Thomas Stacy, the work’s dedicatee, plays with subtlety and feeling.…

On Out of the Dark:

The final work is a suite of three movements, each inspired by a different painting by the abstract expressionist artist Helen Frankenthaler (the picture that inspired the final movement appears on the CD cover). The piece seems to represent something of Fuchs’ own musical journey, beginning in a warm but atonal soundscape and moving “out of the dark” into a warmer, more tonal idiom in the third movement. This features some lovely writing for horn, rendered well by Timothy Jones.

Falletta has known and worked with Fuchs since their days at the Juilliard School in the mid-1980s, and her understanding of his music shows in her rhythmically aware and assured conducting. The London Symphony Orchestra is right with her in every bar, and the acoustic of St Luke’s adds a generous warmth to the recording.…

Altogether, then, a strong release. All three works are accessible and rather lovely.… An American Place alone is worth the price of the disc.   — Tim Perry

Muso — The Music Magazine That Rewrites The Score
London, August/September 2005
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

Not yet 50, American composer Kenneth Fuchs has a large body of works behind him in a variety of styles. But as An American Place makes clear, he has a distinctly native voice; it’s populated with overarching melodic phrases and has an incessant rhythmic drive.

An American Place is like the sophisticated soundtrack to a road movie. The composer himself is fascinated by the confluence of music and visual art — indeed, Out of the Dark is based on abstract canvases by New York artist Helen Frankenthaler.

Fuchs has an uncanny knack for conjuring up a dream-like sense of place. Both An American Place and Out of the Dark are wonderfully evocative. Their largely diatonic, post-romantic language may not be to all tastes but there’s no denying the mastery with which Fuchs handles his resources.

The cinematic feel of the music is second nature to an orchestra that has recorded more major film scores than almost any other. Fuchs is also well served by JoAnn Falletta, who understands his idiom and directs with energy and intensity.

It’s in the chamber-scale Eventide, a fantasia-concerto for cor anglais, that Fuchs is at his most original. Even here, though, there’s an evident nod to some famous antecedents — not least Dvořák’s use of the cor anglais in the New World symphony.

As an introduction to a prolific American composer, this CD is as good value and well-played a starting point as any.


The Buffalo News, Buffalo, NY, August 14, 2005
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

There’s much to be said for ambition. Forty-nine-year-old composer Kenneth Fuchs — a Juilliard colleague of JoAnn Falletta’s as well as English hornist Thomas Stacy — says that the 19-minute “An American Place” “reflects the palette of musical sounds that have developed in the United States during the last hundred years, including popular and classical elements, and is intended to suggest the rich body of music created by the American symphonists who have come before me.” Whew. And so it does, in the most ear-friendly way, as does “Eventide” for English horn and orchestra. Both share the language of neo-Romantics a half-century earlier (Robert Ward and composers out of the Eastman School of Music after Howard Hanson). So too does “Eventide” entail much flutter-tongued double-reed virtuosity from the soloist. A knottier matter is the 12-tone “Out of the Dark” inspired by the paintings of Abstractionist Helen Frankenthaler. The performances by maestra Falletta and the Londoners are truly superb — the sort that contemporary music so seldom attains on first-disc performances.   — Jeff Simon


Scott Morrison, customer review (excerpts), Amazon.com, August 2005
KENNETH FUCHS: AN AMERICAN PLACE, EVENTIDE, OUT OF THE DARK
London Symphony Orchestra — JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Thomas Stacy, English horn • Timothy Jones, French horn
Naxos (American Classics 8.559224)

[Fuchs] is a major composer, I’m convinced, whose music is quintessentially American in the same way that the music of Aaron Copland and William Schuman is. The performances here are first-rate, with an old friend of his, JoAnn Falletta, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

On An American Place:

An American Place is the most recent of the works here; it was premièred by JoAnn Falletta and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in March 2005.… This is an open-faced, optimistic, even brash piece that makes great use of seventh-chord suspensions, seconds and thirds, whirling strings, skittering winds, pizzicato basses, and brass fanfarade. There is a celebratory atmosphere but there are pauses for suspense, lyricism, melancholy, even tragedy within the work’s nineteen minutes.… This is a marvelous work that will surely find its place in American orchestral concerts, perhaps as a concert opener. It’s one of those pieces that makes you feel better. The LSO’s performance probably could not be bettered.

On Eventide:

The English hornist of the New York Philharmonic, Thomas Stacy, one of the legends of that instrument, has been a friend of Ken Fuchs’s since student days.… Eventide (a concerto for English horn, harp, percussion and string orchestra) is a twenty-one minute, single movement work that shows what Stacy can do.… The strings, mostly tuned percussion (celesta, crotales, chimes, glockenspiel, xylophone) and harp supply a gossamer cushion upon which the English horn limns a meditative picture of surpassing beauty.…

On Out of the Dark:

Out of the Dark (Suite for Chamber Orchestra; 16 minutes long) is a set of three tone poems inspired by three paintings of the New York abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler.… There is more bite to them, more astringency but they work their way “from tension to resolution,” to quote Fuchs. Structurally this involves moving more and more into uncomplicated tonality as the set of pieces progresses. This is satisfying both esthetically and emotionally. There is a very important part for solo horn, played here brilliantly by the LSO’s principal French horn, Timothy Jones.

This is an important issue. Here we have three major pieces by what I am convinced is an important emerging American composer. Strongly recommended.


American Record Guide, July/August 2002
KENNETH FUCHS: STRING QUARTETS 2, 3, 4
American String Quartet
Albany Records TROY 480

These quartets from the 1990s by composer-conductor Kenneth Fuchs, Director of the School of Music at the University of Oklahoma, have a lyrical spareness reminiscent of Copland. Open harmonies and disarmingly simple melodies abound, but the structures are sophisticated and satisfying, yielding a distinctly American sound. The American Quartet plays with vividness and obvious affection.

The 1993 Quartet No. 2 has an American impressionism inspired by Robert Motherwell’s collages. No. 3 is a Whitmanian mediation on the poet’s “Whispers of Heavenly Death,” No. 4 an abstract, non-programmatic work in one movement. No. 4 is the most lyrical, tightly structured, and immediately appealing of these quartets. More ambitious is the 1999 Whitman work, a recent addition to the huge literature of musical Whitmania that began during the poet’s lifetime in England with composers like Stanford and gradually spread back to his homeland, where it continues to flourish. Composers from Vaughan Williams to Robert Starer have written vocal settings of these strangely ecstatic death poems, but Fuchs’s is a purely instrumental piece, with the poems acting as inspirations. It begins with a stark Allegro agitato, moves into a pensive and mysterious variation set, and concludes with an exuberant, grandiose finale, a splendid affirmation of Whitmanian optimism in the face of death.

Recorded at the Purchase Recital Hall, a superb venue that enhances many Albany releases, the recording is warm and spacious, making the best possible case for this attractive music. Listen to the transparent, zipping violins and elegant harmonics in the Energico opening of Quartet No. 3 finale, for example. String Quartet recordings don’t get much better than this. The excellent production includes a touching appreciation of Fuchs’s work by his ever-popular colleague, Richard Danielpour.


Tim Reynish, World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles
CHRISTINA’S WORLD, by Kenneth Fuchs
University of Miami Wind Ensemble — Gary Green, conductor
Albany Records TROY 403

Years ago when I was teaching in High School in the West Country of the UK, I ran an Arts Association and booked a visiting exhibition of contemporary art of which only one painting remains in my memory, Andrew Wyeth’s evocative painting of Christina’s World. A work with that title by Kenneth Fuchs gives the title to a fine CD by World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles member Gary Green, whose University of Miami Wind Ensemble is accurate, well balanced, with good intonation and some excellent soloists. While I am not sure that for me Fuchs completely recaptures what I recall of the loneliness of Christina’s pose and her illness, he writes a work of over 11 minutes of some substance; much of it is impressionistic, some is minimalist, but I find the scoring attractive, the ideas interesting, and this is a work I would happily recommend.


American Record Guide, July/August 1997
FACE OF THE NIGHT, by Kenneth Fuchs
Thomas Stacy, English horn
Cala Records CACD 0511

Of all of the members of the New York Philharmonic invited to participate in Cala’s admirable New York Legends series, Thomas Stacy is one of the few who can truly be called a “legend.” This man has almost defined the English horn for the music world over the last 25 years. He has been a member of the Philharmonic since 1972, a fervent commissioner of new works, teacher, lecturer, and the most recorded English hornist in the world. This recital demonstrates his consummate mastery of the instrument — a burnished, juicy sound, flawless technique, and musicianship second to none.

The blockbuster on this disc is also the first presented, Kenneth Fuchs’s Face of the Night. Nicely expressionistic, lyrical, modal, with hints of minimalism that don’t outstay their welcome, this piece deserves many recordings — but none will be able to compete with Stacy’s evocative, darkly woven tapestry. The chamber group is very supportive, though perhaps a little ragged in a few spots. This is a terrific work.


From the “Moderated Classical Music List”
KENNETH FUCHS: STRING QUARTETS 2, 3, 4
American String Quartet
Albany Records TROY 480

String quartet writing is alive and well in America. Before I bought this CD I had never heard of Kenneth Fuchs. But members of the American String Quartet are old friends and I typically buy their new releases. I’m glad I did. Fuchs, Director of the School of Music at the University of Oklahoma, and formerly Dean of Students and Academics at the Manhattan School of Music, is a real composer. On the basis of these three quartets, one can say that he has a genuine lyrical gift, as well as a masterful sense of form, expert counterpoint, rhythmic verve, and drama.

The Second Quartet has five movements inspired by five different pieces of Robert Motherwell, whose collages the composer had first seen in New York in 1984. Full-color photographs of the five collages are included in the liner notes and it was helpful to look at them while listening to the music. Fuchs’s style is generally tonal, but with enough spicy dissonance to make the harmonies interesting, and there are even some serial sections which, however, are still tonal-sounding. If I had to compare his sound to any other composer’s, I’d probably have to mention that of Shostakovich; what composer writing quartets in the second half of the 20th century could avoid his influence? Shostakovich’s hollow-eyed terror, however, is missing. And occasionally, as in the second movement, there is a melismatic ecstasy reminiscent of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending. The third movement combines elements of the first two, while responding to “The Marriage,” one of Motherwell’s pieces, and, in the composer’s wry comment, “it ends badly.” The fourth movement functions as the work’s development and leads to the fifth movement, which one could consider the quartet’s recapitulation; the musical landscapes of the earlier movements are recalled in an affirmative mood.

The Third Quartet, in three movements and subtitled “Whispers of Heavenly Death,” was composed “as a gift for the American String Quartet,” after they had toured with the Second Quartet. Each of the movements has an epigram from Whitman’s “Darest Thou Now O Soul.” The materials in the three movements are related, and like the working-out of the materials in Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, the harmonic language becomes more diatonic as the work progresses, with an accompanying easing of tension. Like the Second Quartet, this one ends on an affirmative note.

The Fourth Quartet, subtitled “Bergonzi,” was written for the Bergonzi Quartet, in 1998. Its one ten-minute movement has three distinct sections — Energico — Meno mosso — Vivo — played without interruption. The first section introduces a tremolo figure on the viola followed by a lyrical, almost swooning, figure on the cello and these become the major figures in the succeeding lyrical second and energetic third sections.

This CD probably represents the last ASQ recording that includes their founding cellist, David Geber, who became head of the Manhattan School’s string department in 2001. I haven’t heard his successor, Margo Tatgenhorst, yet, but look forward to hearing the ASQ next week. And, frankly, I’m hoping they will play one of Fuchs’s quartets. As for this particular recording, I can only quote the reviewer in American Record Guide: “Quartet recordings don’t get much better than this.”


The Double Reed, journal of the International Double Reed Society
FACE OF THE NIGHT, by Kenneth Fuchs
Thomas Stacy, English Horn
Cala Records CACD 0511

When the “New York Legends” recording project permitted Thomas Stacy to choose the repertoire for his own CD, he packed in as much music and as many composers as he could, drawing from the twenty-five-plus world premières and commissions he has already given. One of the twelve New York Philharmonic principals included in Cala Records’ “celebration of the orchestral musician as an individual,” English hornist Stacy had nearly completed twenty-five years with the New York Philharmonic by 1996, when the CD was made. Six composers, four of whom are American and still living, wrote the almost eighty minutes of music.…

Kenneth Fuchs’s Face of the Night opens with a raw oboe obligato, played with a wide-open sound. Percussion (vibes, cymbals, drums, bells…), harp, and three strings spell the oboe and extend the expressive range of this large, programmatic piece, which, according to its composer, represents moods suggested by Robert Motherwell’s painting of the same name. Fuchs, currently a dean at the Manhattan School of Music, has a distinct compositional voice that holds the piece together through its changing levels of agitation and anguish. The accompanying ensemble makes for an efficient palette of colors that add substantially to the work’s emotion. Notably effective is the turning point, a bit past the middle, when the frantic oboe dissolves into ringing percussive sonorities, only to re-emerge on the same pitch as an English horn. This gorgeous moment sounds even better because of Stacy’s ability to meld the two instruments; I had a vivid picture of an oboe shape-shifting into its tenor brother. Fuchs weaves the English horn through a string counterpoint before giving it up to more cadenza passage work with undulating harp. Slowly shifting tonal areas bring a sense of peace, but Fuchs wants the composition to end with a recapitulation of the negative emotion of its beginning. He dissolves the fleeting repose with sinister interjections by the drums and an unresolved final note in the English horn.