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Fuchs: String Quartets No 2, 3, 4 / American String Quartet

Release Date: 10/30/2001 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 480   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Kenneth Fuchs
Performer:  Daniel AvshalomovPeter WinogradLaurie CarneyDavid Geber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  American String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"Recorded in 2000, the Albany CD is the oldest of the lot, having been in circulation for over a dozen years. Fuchs’s String Quartet No. 2 is a kind of “pictures at an exhibition,” if you will, taking its inspiration from collages by American abstract expressionist, Robert Motherwell (1915-1991). He was a member of the so-called New York School, which included Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, among others. Each of the five movements of the quartet takes the title of one of Motherwell’s collages: Heart of Darkness, The Other Side, The Marriage, They Are Not Heard at All , and Where Have You Been?

Read more Photos of the five collages are reproduced in the booklet, and all that can be said of them is that there is no way to attribute any meaning to their titles. They all look like Rorschach test images, any one of which could be blobs of peanut butter on shards of broken crackers. If I questioned the ability of music to depict an ocean liner in Fuchs’s Atlantic Riband , I’m less inclined to question music’s ability to depict images of a wholly non-representational, abstract nature, for music is itself a non-representational, abstract art form. Both viewer and listener, not to mention composer, are free to see, hear, and read into such images and sounds whatever thoughts and feelings they trigger in the mind’s inner eye and ear.

Thus, it’s not surprising that Fuchs’s response to Motherwell’s paintings elicited music of a very modernist style. The String Quartet No. 2, composed in 1993 is marked by all manner of now familiar techniques—elastic glissandos, eerie harmonics, rasping sul ponticello and wood-pecking col legno bowings, percussive pizzicato, and anxious tremolos. Still, I’m hesitant to brand the score with the label avant-garde, which, for me, carries negative connotations; for every time I was about to throw in the towel and call this one a lost cause, Fuchs proves once again that he’s not able to long suppress his better musical instincts, and out pops a passage that sounds like it could have come from one of Janá?ek’s quartets.

Where abstract painting served Fuchs for his Second String Quartet, it’s now the poetry of Walt Whitman that inspires the String Quartet No. 3, its title, “Whispers of Heavenly Death,” taken from an eponymously named Whitman poem. Here we’re dealing with something that’s not entirely abstract—words do have meaning—but not physically concrete, like an ocean liner, either. It’s a bit easier to judge how the composer translates his responses to the words of the poems into music because we can know what the words mean. Unlike Motherwell’s abstract collages, Whitman’s poems can’t mean whatever we want them to, though they can certainly have levels of meaning and evoke a variety of emotions.

The poems to which Fuchs makes reference, in addition to the title poem, are: Darkest Thou Now O Soul; Of Him I Love Day and Night; Quicksand Years; That Music Always Round Me; O Living Always, Always Dying; The Last Invocation; and Pensive and Faltering. For the most part, these poems dwell on the mystery of death, both physical and spiritual. Fuchs doesn’t make a movement of each of the poems, but rather distills and combines their essences into three movements which express a wide range of emotional responses, from fear, anxiety, and anger, to resignation and acceptance.

Only one member of the American String Quartet, cellist David Gerber, is no longer with the ensemble since this recording was made; he retired in 2002. His chair is currently occupied by Wolfram Koessel. Peter Winograd and Laurie Carney, violins; and Daniel Avshalomov are still with the group.

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

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 2 "Where have you been?" by Kenneth Fuchs
Performer:  Daniel Avshalomov (Viola), Peter Winograd (Violin), Laurie Carney (Violin),
David Geber (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  American String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Purchase College, NY 
Length: 24 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings no 3 "Whispers of heavenly death" by Kenneth Fuchs
Performer:  Peter Winograd (Violin), Laurie Carney (Violin), David Geber (Cello),
Daniel Avshalomov (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  American String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Purchase College, NY 
Length: 19 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings no 4 "Bergonzi" by Kenneth Fuchs
Performer:  David Geber (Cello), Daniel Avshalomov (Viola), Peter Winograd (Violin),
Laurie Carney (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  American String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Purchase College, NY 
Length: 10 Minutes 39 Secs. 

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