Kenneth Fuchs and JoAnn Falletta record fourth disc with the London Symphony Orchestra
September 23, 2013
Composer Kenneth Fuchs and conductor JoAnn Falletta completed their fourth recording with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, 30 August–1 September 2013. Physical discs and digital formats of their collaboration will be released worldwide on Naxos American Classics in 2014.
The recording features baritone and Naxos artist Roderick Williams and is produced by GRAMMY® Award-winner Tim Handley. Repertoire includes: Falling Man (for baritone voice and orchestra); Movie House (seven poems by John Updike for baritone voice and chamber ensemble); and Songs of Innocence and of Experience (four poems by William Blake for baritone voice and chamber ensemble).
About the three works, Fuchs writes:
Falling Man is an extended work for baritone voice and orchestra. The vocal text is based on a fragment from Don DeLillo’s powerful post-9/11 novel Falling Man, published in 2007. I am grateful to Don DeLillo for granting permission for the use of his text and to JD McClatchy for his eloquent adaptation for musical setting. DeLillo’s novel about the events, aftermath and changed lives of 9/11, enthralled me. I was riveted in particular by the dramatic opening prologue, in which the novel’s protagonist stumbles out of the falling rubble of the World Trade Center. DeLillo’s unflinching description of raw terror and absolute chaos provided a standpoint from which I could begin to come to terms as a composer with the shocking and world-changing events of that fateful morning. Falling Man, which lasts 18 minutes, is cast in the form of a dramatic scena. The work’s principal melodic and harmonic elements are organized around a falling 12-tone theme, fragments of which emerge at the outset, first in the orchestra and then with the setting of the first line of text, “This was the world now, a time and space of falling ash and near night.” The compositional manipulation of the theme’s 12 individual pitches does not strictly adhere to classic dodecaphonic procedures. The pitches and their permutations are taken up in various melodic and harmonic combinations and provide the basis for musical development and transformation over the course of a through-composed vocal aria interspersed with vocal recitatives and orchestral interludes.
When I read John Updike’s new novel Rabbit is Rich in 1982, I knew I had come upon a writer whose words would inspire me for a very long time. Updike’s observations about American life and the objects and desires of the American sensibility spoke directly to me. I fell under the spell of his poetry and found many poems that I thought would be right for musical setting. Movie House is a cycle of seven poems set for baritone voice and chamber ensemble (flute, oboe, clarinet, string trio, and harp) from Updike’s second volume of poetry, Telephone Poles, published in 1963. The poems include “Telephone Poles,” “Maples in a Spruce Forest,” “Seagulls,” “The Short Days,” “Movie House,” “Modigliani’s Death Mask,” and “Summer: West Side.” When performed together, the collection lasts about 31 minutes. I was attracted to these poems because of their optimistic evocations of life during the 1950s, the decade in which I was born. Read some fifty years later, the poems have a nostalgic quality that seems both ironic and poignant. I chose the title of the poem “Movie House” as the title of the entire work. The first poem, “Telephone Poles,” introduces the phrase “our eyes“ and the idea of observation, which runs throughout the cycle. The music accompanying that phrase (an ascending major second followed by an ascending major sixth) forms the musical motive from which the melodic and harmonic structure of the entire work evolves. Like the images on a movie screen, the musical setting of each poem is meant to provide the listener with an aural, visual, and emotional perspective from which to observe the world.
Songs of Innocence and of Experience is a cycle of four poems set for baritone voice and chamber ensemble (flute, oboe, violoncello, and harp) from William Blake’s iconic two–part illustrated collection of poems Songs of Innocence and of Experience, published in 1794. I composed these settings in the fall of 1977 while an undergraduate composition student at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida. They are among a few of my earliest compositions still performed today. I chose two songs from each book to create a cycle that contrasts bucolic innocence with the harsh realities of human existence. “The Lamb” represents unquestioning belief in Christianity. The music is simple and triadic. “Holy Thursday” describes the scene of London’s orphaned children on display at St Paul’s Cathedral, examples of the City’s beneficence in the midst of poverty. The music is bleak, with stark intervals of the fourth and fifth and no triadic resolution. “Spring” refers back to the innocence of the first poem, musically reviewing the elements of the first song before plunging headlong into the wild, unpredictable world of “The Tyger.” The atonal and jagged music of the latter is organized around elements of the 12-tone system, using permutations of the inversion, retrograde, and retrograde inversion of the original melody to highlight the text. The singer declaims in sprechstimme the terrifying creation of “The Tyger.”
I am deeply grateful to a number of friends and colleagues in music who brought this recording project to life, including JoAnn Falletta, Roderick Williams, the musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra, producer Tim Handley, engineer Jonathan Allen, Colette Barber at Abbey Road Studios, Evan Hause at Edward B. Marks Music Company, Karen Pitchford at KHJ Communications, Marc Stevens at the London Symphony Orchestra, and founding chairman of Naxos, Klaus Heymann.
Funding was provided, in part, by the University of Connecticut, the Georges Lurcy Charitable and Educational Trust, an anonymous donor, Charles E. Brown, Carmine Parente, Bentley Shellahamer, and a group of donors who contributed to a fundraising campaign on www.kickstarter.com.
Kenneth Fuchs, JoAnn Falletta, and Roderick Williams
Kenneth Fuchs greets the London Symphony Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta, Roderick Williams, and the London Symphony Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta, Roderick Williams, and members of the London Symphony Orchestra
Kenneth Fuchs, JoAnn Falletta, producer Tim Handley
Phillip Sommerich of Classical Music magazine interviews Kenneth Fuchs and JoAnn Falletta about their latest recording with the London Symphony Orchestra for Naxos. Abbey Road Studio 2, London, August 1, 2013.