Fuchs: An American Place, Eventide, Out of the Dark

Fuchs: An American Place, Eventide, Out of the Dark

by JoAnn Falletta
     
 

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… See more details below

Overview

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 premiere 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.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
Composer Kenneth Fuchs is nearing the age of 50 as Naxos American Classics series issues the first all-Fuchs disc that is all orchestral music as well. The key work here is "An American Place," a movement lasting a little less than 20 minutes that Fuchs describes as "reflect(ing) the palette of musical sounds that developed in the United States in the last hundred years." The obvious reference point here is Copland with a dash of Hollywood scoring here, a pinch of Stravinsky and the employment of some minimalistic ostinati without going into full-bore minimalism itself. Apart from itemizing the influences that go into this work, "An American Place" is a very listener-friendly piece that would keep an average symphony audience quiet and attentive, rather than restless and bored, which is what symphony patrons dread the most about contemporary compositions. It is a fine piece of music as long as one doesn't get hung up on how much some of it sounds like Copland, and whether the "open"-sounding chords in "American vernacular" orchestral harmony truly reflects musical "Americanism," or is rather a broadly drawn cliché. The slightly earlier "Eventide" is a concerted piece for English horn and orchestra that sounds very French; it is pleasant, although the wisps of melodic material employed do not constitute a true melody. The much earlier "Out of the Dark" is technically not concerted, but features a prominent solo horn part. This work is more like being back at the academy, with its twelve-tone rows and pitch class sets, although Fuchs' approach is a tad warmer than that description might suggest. Nonetheless, "Out of the Dark" is an odd disc mate for the other two works. Former director of the School of Music at the University of Oklahoma and currently installed in the same position at the University of Connecticut, Fuchs has been in arts administration and teaching for 20 years. Composers holding down such jobs usually do not produce music that is entertaining in a broad sense, nor of lasting value. Kenneth Fuchs is at least trying to depart from this convention, and for this reason, American Classics: Kenneth Fuchs might be stimulating to expert ears; more general listeners should have no problem enjoying An American Place. Conductor Joann Falletta is a long-time champion of Fuchs and she does very well by him here. The London Philharmonic turns in a performance of such quality that many of Fuchs' colleagues among orchestral composers will be justifiably envious.

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Product Details

Release Date:
08/16/2005
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943922422
catalogNumber:
8559224
Rank:
331647

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. An American Place, for Orchestra  - Kenneth Fuchs  - JoAnn Falletta  -  London Symphony Orchestra
  2. Eventide, Concerto for English Horn  - Kenneth Fuchs  - JoAnn Falletta  -  London Symphony Orchestra  - Thomas Stacy
  3. Out of the Dark, Suite for Chamber Orchestra  - Kenneth Fuchs  - JoAnn Falletta  -  London Symphony Orchestra  - Thomas Jones

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