Friday, September 21, 2012

CCC 046 - Kenneth Fuchs

American composer Kenneth Fuchs is the next entry in our Consonant Classical Challenge. Fuchs writes in an inviting post-Copland style that is quite accessible without being derivative or trivial. And it's a style that's made him a popular choice for commissioning ensembles. Fuchs' melodies tend to have wide intervals (like Copland), and complex but tonal harmonies (like Bernstein). There's also some of the forward-motion energy of  minimalism in his music. Although Fuchs uses elements similar to other American composers, his music has its own individual character.

The String Quartet No. 4 provides a good introduction to Fuch's style. Listen to the "American" shape of the melody (that's how I hear it, anyway), and the inventiveness of the accompanying patterns.

A major part of Fuchs' appeal is his mastery of orchestration. His ensemble music seems to have an undercurrent of good humor as it sparkles and shines. United Artists was originally composed for the United States Air Force Academy Band.

Fuchs later arranged United Artists for orchestra. Although the character of the work is unchanged, Fuchs takes full advantage of the expanded tonal colors available to him.

Fuchs has enjoyed success in the field of recordings. JoAnn Faletta has has embarked on a series of Fuchs orchestral recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra for Naxos (one of the discs was nominated for a Grammy).

Kenneth Fuchs has his champions -- such as JoAnn Faletta and Marin Alsop -- so his music gets performed. But still, considering how accessible and in-demand it is among some, it's not programmed with any frequency. A rousing Fuchs overture would be a great way to start a concert and get the audience engaged. At least, I think so.

Recommended Recordings:

Fuchs: Atlantic Riband; American Rhapsody; Divinum Mysterium

Fuchs: String Quartets 2, 3, & 4

Fuchs: Canticle to the Sun / United Artists

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