The fourth disc in our North American Classics series devoted to music by Kenneth Fuchs, released this month, comprises Falling Canons (for solo piano) Falling Trio (for piano trio) and his String Quartet No. 5 (“American”).
Permeating all three pieces is Fuchs’ extensive use of counterpoint.
“Rigorous contrapuntal procedure is paramount in all of my musical compositions,” he says, “perhaps no more so in the purity of the string quartet medium, for which some of the most enduring music of the Western tradition has been composed.”
Kenneth Fuchs is one of America’s leading composers and his music is performed worldwide. After writing Falling Man, a work for baritone voice and orchestra based on the post-9/11 novel by Don DeLillo, Fuchs explored the principal theme in his rigorously developed Falling Canons for solo piano. Falling Trio grows out of the same theme, and from its ethereal opening presents a series of seven fantasy variations. String Quartet No. 5 is an exciting, largescale work that explores the contrapuntal possibilities of a single ‘American’ theme.
Kenneth Fuchs: String Quartet No. 5 ("American") - mvmt. II
The subtitle for his String Quartet No. 5 arises from a theme that unifies the entire four-movement work, and which Fuchs describes as essentially American.
“The music is alternately lyrical and playful, sometimes brusque and muscular, at times elegiac, and is meant to suggest the resilience and brash optimism of the American spirit,” he explains.
Both in the string quartet’s third movement and in Falling Canons, Fuchs identifies compositional and thematic links with a previous work, Falling Man for baritone and orchestra, composed during 2008-2010. The melodic core of Falling Man is a descending sequence of 12 different pitches. In Falling Canons, the compositional device of the title rigorously develops this material: seven canons built on the descending sequence of notes in a C major scale, starting on B and ending on C.
“The interval of canonic imitation, temporal relationships and the time signature of each canon are related to the sequential number of each piece,” Fuchs adds.
The thematic material from Falling Man is also used in his Falling Trio, composed in a single, extended movement. Following an ethereal opening in which the instruments float down from their highest registers in a strict three-part canon, the work becomes a set of seven fantasy variations on the Falling Man theme.
The work also features a lyrical interlude, described by Fuchs as a ‘reconciliation theme’. “It is interpolated twice in the work, when the instruments attempt to reconcile the work’s tonal and non-tonal musical language.”