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Fuchs: Atlantic Riband, Divinum Mysteium / Falletta, London Symphony

Release Date: 08/28/2012 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559723   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Kenneth Fuchs
Performer:  Michael LudwigPaul Silverthorne
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Although it doesn’t say so on the cover, this is Naxos’ third release of orchestral pieces by Kenneth Fuchs (b. 1956) featuring the London Symphony Orchestra led by the always capable JoAnn Falletta. Evidently, Fuchs either has a trust fund or a sponsor with deep pockets. Either way, he remains an enjoyable composer who writes traditionally tonal, immediately accessible music in a recognizably cinematic idiom. Having heard the previous releases in this ongoing series, his strengths and weaknesses are becoming increasingly apparent.

Fuchs’ strengths include concision—his works almost never outstay their welcome—the ability to write a good tune, and a genuine feel for texture and sonority. On the minus side, he seems to rely too
Read more heavily on ready-made effects, such as extensive doubling of lyrical melodies by the glockenspiel, harp glissandos, and solo timpani riffs. Indeed, this last item, most obvious in Atlantic Riband and the overture Discover the Wild, sometimes makes the music feel as though composer and player are trying to recall “Troyte” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Another issue that Fuchs shares with so many of his contemporaries is a bad case of “title-itus”. He needs to be careful that the music doesn’t promise verbally more than it delivers sonically. Atlantic Riband theoretically “evokes the struggle and ultimate victory of ocean-crossing immigrants to America….” Oh really? American Rhapsody is a 10-minute lyrical movement for violin and orchestra that’s very pretty, sort of like Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, but “American”? Its sub-heading, “Romance for violin and orchestra”, is truer to the facts, but then who needs titles upon titles? The Viola Concerto “Divinum Mysterium” is the most ambitious piece here—a single movement 17 minutes long that is certainly attractive, but neither divine nor especially mysterious beyond its opening pages. What’s wrong with simply being a Viola Concerto?

The Concerto Grosso for string quartet and string orchestra shows Fuchs’ ability to write colorfully for limited forces, although the frequent resort to harmonics suggests that he really misses that glockenspiel. Call me pedantic, but the fact that this 10-minute-long, single-movement piece demands two unequal ensembles does not a Concerto Grosso make. Finally, Discover the Wild is a peppy four and a half minutes of orchestral fun, but wild it certainly is not, especially in terms of the possibilities of contemporary orchestral music, whether in Fuchs’ style, something more avant-garde, or even the eruptive moments of, say, Walter Piston. Indeed, its main theme bears a striking resemblance (rhythmically at least) to the Bounty paper towel jingle, so perhaps the more apt title for the piece would be “The quilted quicker picker-upper”!

None of this means that there’s anything wrong with Fuchs’ work as such; merely that the frequent contemporary need to evoke extra-musical imagery is a distraction, one that risks trivializing the music and misleading the listener. Certainly these pieces don’t need that particular crutch, or maybe to the extent that titles would be appropriate Fuchs simply hasn’t found the right ones. Be that as it may the performances under Falletta are very good, with the single exception of violinist Michael Ludwig in the Rhapsody. His excessive vibrato quickly turns tacky. Otherwise, if you enjoyed the previous discs in this series, then there is absolutely no reason why you will not equally like this well engineered release.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Atlantic Riband by Kenneth Fuchs
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
American Rhapsody by Kenneth Fuchs
Performer:  Michael Ludwig (Violin)
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993 
Divinum Mysterium by Kenneth Fuchs
Performer:  Paul Silverthorne (Viola)
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Concerto Grosso by Kenneth Fuchs
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Discover the Wild by Kenneth Fuchs
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Listened, liked, repeated and then played it a t August 5, 2013 By R. Willard (W. Simsbury, CT) See All My Reviews "Music is a joy, the sound it wonderful, and you feel happy after listening...and the price is right. Go for it!" Report Abuse
 BBC Music Magazine ***** August 19, 2012 By Kenneth Fuchs (Mansfield Center, CT) See All My Reviews "Full harmony Kenneth Fuchs writes tonal orchestral music of great imagination, says Anthony Burton (BBC Music Magazine, September 2012) FUCHS Atlantic Riband; American Rhapsody; Divinum Mysterium; Concerto Grosso; Discover the Wild Michael Ludwig (violin), Paul Silverthorne (viola); LSO/JoAnn Falletta Naxos 8.559723 57:39 mins Available arkivmusic.com/bbcmusic 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 *****" Report Abuse
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