Notes and Editorial Reviews
Atlantic Riband. American Rhapsody
Discover the Wild
JoAnn Falletta, cond;
Paul Silverthorne (va);
Carmine Lauri (vn);
David Alberman (vn);
Timothy Hugh (vc); London SO
NAXOS 8.559723 (57:39)
Another discovery of an interesting and rewarding new composer has come to me from
Central in this month’s review parcels. Kenneth Fuchs is not new to the pages of
however, and I direct interested readers to reviews of his music in 27:4 and 29:3. His music has been championed by the conductor on this CD, JoAnn Falletta, who has recorded two CDs of his music previous to the one in hand. I have not heard those, but on the basis of what I hear herein, I would be inclined to pick them up, were I still actively collecting. Fuch’s idiom is a most ingratiating mix of tonal harmonies, interesting sonorities and textures, and colorful writing.
The disc’s opening work,
is one of many sea pieces that have been written by composers over the past few centuries. In this work, Fuchs remembers the great ocean liners of the 20th century that ferried immigrants from the Old World to the New. The specific liner that captured the composer’s imagination was the S. S. United States, which in 1952 on its maiden voyage broke the record for the crossing time of the Atlantic Ocean, a record which stands for ships of its kind to this day. Given its inspiration, it is not surprising that
exudes optimism and affirmation of the indomitable human spirit throughout its 13-minute duration, even in its quietest sections. Some of the latter feature a prominent part for the piccolo. It doesn’t require too much imagination to hear the waves, the sea birds, and the gentle rocking of the ship in this work, which would work equally well on the serious concert stage or in a pops concert context.
is described as a romance for violin and orchestra. This is consequently not a showy display piece, but a gentle exercise with beautiful flowing lines in both the solo instrument and the orchestra. The composer’s mastery of counterpoint is most evident in this work, as the violin soars and sings. The inspiration for the piece came from Fuchs’s own Second String Quartet, but the
is not so much a transcription of that work as a continuation of it. The violin part is wide-ranging, with prominence given to the arpeggiated minor 11th chord. Harmonies in the orchestra tend towards pandiatonicism, and the piece, given its gentle sonorities and disposition, will instill in the auditor a sense of repose. The sweetly singing tone of violinist Michael Ludwig is all that one could ask for to bring this work off convincingly.
takes yet another starting point, in this case, the Protestant hymn
Of the Father’s Love Begotten,
well known to this writer. The hymn itself is based upon an 11th-century Sanctus trope, usually referred to as the “Divinum Mysterium,” thus the title of the work, which is essentially a Viola Concerto. Stylistically, the piece is very similar to the preceding work. If you’re not paying attention, you may not notice that a new piece has begun, other than that the timbre of the solo instrument has become much darker. Although cast in one movement, the concerto is in four contrasting sections, freely drawing upon intervals and patterns from the hymn tune to weave a tapestry of fantasy variations. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the piece for the violist to show off his technique and musicianship, including a cadenza or two. Violist Paul Silverthorne has plenty of each of those qualities to show off, too, and his playing is most impressive. Some mildly dissonant chords in the brass around the 8:30 mark provide a welcome contrast to the largely diatonic writing, as does the effective use of the temple blocks in this passage.
Fuchs’s Concerto Grosso is again based on an earlier work, in this case his Fourth String Quartet, composed in 1998 for the Bergonzi String Quartet. The present incarnation is set for
string quartet with a
string orchestra. Unlike the baroque concerto grosso models, this work is cast in one movement with three parts, and features the intervals of the major second and perfect fourth, both used in ascending fashion. As expected, there is much interplay between the
groups. Effective use of a persistent ostinato in the latter group, over which the soloists spin forth their lines, brings drama to the work.
The CD closes with a brief concert overture,
Discover the Wild,
which draws heavily upon the intervals of the perfect fourth and fifth to make its dramatic impact. This is the most Coplandesque work on the CD—I hear a good bit of the
in it—but that is to take nothing away from the skill of the writing and the effect of the piece.
All of these pieces are played with precision and commitment. Falletta makes a good case interpretively for these works, as do the various soloists. This is a thoroughly enjoyable CD, which should have wide appeal among the readers of this magazine. Fuchs has a good ear for color and sonority and the skill to put together convincing musical fabrics.
FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield