- United Artists, for orchestra
- Quiet in the Land, an idyll for mixed quintet
- Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze, an idyll for brass quintet after two works on paper by Helen Frankenthaler
- Autumn Rhythm, an idyll for woodwind quintet after a painting by Jackson Pollock
- Concerto for french horn & orchestra ("Canticle to the Sun")
Kenneth Fuchs: Canticle to the Sun; United Artistsby JoAnn Falletta
This is the second Naxos release devoted to orchestral and chamber music by American composer Kenneth Fuchs, who teaches at the University of Connecticut. His music is frequently inspired by contemporary visual artists, and this disc features two such pieces, "Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze," after two paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, and "Autumn Rhythm," after the painting of the same name by Jackson Pollack. Fuchs' orchestral music frequently has the immediately appealing sound of high-quality film scoring, and it's easy to hear echoes of John Williams in his fanfare "United Artists" (with a few John Adams-isms thrown in). The most effective pieces are "Quiet in the Land (Idyll for mixed quintet)," which is inventively scored and atmospherically subdued in a mood evocative of Copland-esque "Americana," and the similar, but livelier "Autumn Rhythm for wind quintet." The most substantial work on the album is the single-movement concerto for horn and orchestra, "Canticle to the Sun." It takes its thematic material from the seventeenth century tune that's best known as the hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King." It's characterized by bright, colorful orchestration; conventional harmonic; and gestural language and a prevailing lyricism. While it doesn't have a strong enough profile to make it truly memorable, its accessible lyricism and use of a familiar tune make it a piece that could easily be appealing to concertgoers open to new music that doesn't challenge too many conventions. Timothy Jones plays the expressive horn part with warm tone and solid technique. JoAnn Falletta leads the London Symphony in committed, nuanced performances.
- Release Date:
- Naxos American
Performance CreditsJoAnn Falletta Primary Artist
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Kenneth Fuchs is currently head of the music department at the University of Connecticut and has, as the CD tells us, written for orchestra, band, chorus, jazz ensemble, and chamber ensembles. On the evidence of this disc, he produces music that's undemanding of its listeners but never shallow. The first track was written for the LSO, who perform it here. The name United Artists of course suggests movies, and the LSO has recorded a lot of music for movies with these facts in mind it's perhaps no surprise that it sounds the way it does - an orchestral workout that gives everyone something to do, with plenty of fanfarey brass. It's enjoyable. The other orchestral work on the disc is the final piece, Canticle to the Sun. Based on the hymn that begins "All creatures of our God and King" "I had to look this one up - not a churchgoer", it's a concerto written for horn player Timothy Jones. Essentially it's an easy-going celebration of nature. There are some wonderful moments but on first hearing I felt it meandered a little at times - occasionally it seemed to be building to something but never quite got there. As usually happens, a second listen taken on the piece's own terms makes me like it more. Its peaceful coda is a lovely way to end the disc. The rest of the program consists of 3 works for various quintet groupings. Quiet in the Land is, according to Fuchs, "purely abstract" but "can also be heard as a sonic ode to... the great Midwestern Plains". I wonder if anyone with a passing knowledge of 20th-century American music would be able to avoid thinking of it in these latter terms? It's redolent with the pastoral, folky sound we associate with Copland. Scored for flute, cor anglais, clarinet, viola, and cello and mostly in contemplative vein, it's an absolutely gorgeous piece and for me the disc's highlight. Fire, Ice, and Summer Bronze - from 1986 and the only work here more than 5 years old - is a brass quintet based on a pair of abstract expressionist works by Helen Frankenthaler. The first movement is the fire and ice, meaning restlessness and serenity respectively these notions do indeed characterize the music. Summer Bronze, the second movement, brings us repose, and it's much more lyrical than what's gone before, with the French horn leading the way beautifully. Another piece of abstract expressionism appears in the form of the woodwind quintet Autumn Rhythm, inspired by Jackson Pollock's painting of the same name. Initially I was sceptical about the connection the piece does have what you might call an autumnal feel to it but I couldn't “hear” the painting. But actually looking at the painting while the music played I could see where Fuchs was coming from, and I now "get" the lyricism of Pollock. An intriguing feature of the music is that some of the players change instruments toward the end, so that the piece ends in a lower register than it began. Again, this is a charming and relaxed piece. Overall, you could view Fuchs' music as rather old-fashioned, but it's none the worse for that. Some composers achieve an effect through conflict, whereas Fuchs appears to achieve his through accord. Feel-good music, you could say.