Monday 28 August 2017

Session report: Recording the music of Kenneth Fuchs for Naxos

Kenneth Fuchs
Kenneth Fuchs
On Tuesday (22 August 2017) I visited Abbey Road Studios to eavesdrop on one of the sessions where conductor JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) were recording the music of contemporary American composer, Kenneth Fuchs

The disc, to be released in 2018, is going to be the fifth of a series of Fuchs' music on the Naxos label, and will include recordings of Fuchs Concerto for Electric Guitar and Orchestra ('Glacier') with soloist D.J.Sparr, Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra ('Rush') with soloist Timothy McCallister, Piano Concerto ('Spiritualist') with soloist Jeffrey Biegel and Poems of Life with counter-tenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen.

Kenneth Fuchs (born 1956) is professor of music composition at the University of Connecticut (Storrs). Fuchs studied at the University of Miami and the Juilliard School, and his teachers included Milton Babbitt, David Diamond, Vincent Persichetti and David Del Tredici. One of his fellow student at the Juilliard was conductor JoAnn Falletta, and she has conducted the LSO in all five of the discs for Naxos' American Classics series.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (photo Faye Fox)
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen
(photo Faye Fox)
I heard part of the recording session for Poems of Life a setting of poems by Judith G. Wolf, in fact it was JoAnn Falletta who introduced Fuchs to Wolf's poetry. The work was premiered in April 2017 with JoAnn Falletta conducting the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, with counter-tenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and the principal cello of the orchestra, Michael Daniels playing the solo cello part. (read the review on BachTrack) In fact, Fuchs wrote the work for cellist Michael Daniels and his brother, counter-tenor David Daniels. But David Daniels was unable to take part in the premiere and Nussbaum-Cohen stepped in at the last minute fresh from his prizewinning performances at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Nussbaum Cohen learned the score in just 48 hours.

Fuchs' style is tonal and richly romantic, but highly individual and certainly well worth investigating. From what I hear, Poems of Life is a highly striking work, with the singer accompanied by an orchestra consisting of strings with a few wind instruments, piano and harp. The composer describes the solo cello as 'the instrumental doppelgänger of the protagonist’s spirit and emotions' and the significant cor anglais part represents the spirit of the lost beloved.

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