About this Recording
8.573567 - FUCHS, K.: Point of Tranquility / Christina's World / Rush / Forever Free (G. Case, The United States Coast Guard Band, A. Williamson)
English 

Kenneth Fuchs (b. 1956)
Discover the Wild • Point of Tranquility • From the Field to the Sky • Rush • United Artists • Christina’s World • Forever Free

 

My first exposure to musical composition was through band music, starting when my high school band director, Bentley Shellahamer, encouraged me to compose original music for band. My undergraduate composition teacher, Alfred Reed, was considered a master band composer, and I learned from him how to compose and orchestrate effectively for symphonic winds. I continued my graduate studies in composition at The Juilliard School with Vincent Persichetti, one of America’s leading symphonists, who composed an enduring body of works for band. Throughout my career I have composed band works in various forms; this recording features a selection of these works.

Discover the Wild is cast in the form of a three-part overture. The principal musical elements include a motif based upon the interval of the perfect fourth robustly stated in unison at the outset by four French horns. A lyrical theme characterised by the interval of the perfect fifth follows. These musical elements are taken up in various melodic and harmonic combinations by the entire band and form the basis for musical development throughout the remainder of the composition. The work is dedicated to Bentley Shellahamer.

Morris Louis, along with his contemporaries Helen Frankenthaler and Kenneth Noland, became one of the leading figures of Colour Field painting. During the 1950s Louis adopted a technique of thinning acrylic resin paints to the consistency of stains that he poured on unprimed canvas. He manipulated the canvas to control the flow of paint, creating layered veils of transparent colour. His painting Point of Tranquility (see http://morrislouis.org/paintings/large/du274) provided the inspiration for this musical composition. The work begins with a series of muted brass chord progressions that emerge from a hushed texture to set the sonic tone of the work. These harmonies, accompanied by undulating rhythmic figures in the woodwinds and percussion, form the basis of the modal harmonic language from which the entire work evolves. The exposition begins with an arching melody first sung by the flute, oboe and a muted trumpet, which is then intoned by other woodwind and brass instruments. The development section unfolds with a series of episodic variations combining the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic motifs in various instrumental choirs and colours. The coda follows with fragments of music from the exposition and development scattered throughout the ensemble as the work glides to a point of tranquil repose.

From the Field to the Sky was commissioned by Daniel W. Boothe, then Commander and Conductor of the United States Air Force Band of Flight, at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The work is dedicated to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the world’s largest military aviation repository, with more than 350 aircraft and missiles on display. Boothe suggested composing a celebratory work for brass and percussion that would capture in sound our nation’s storied military heritage, from the valiant work of soldiers defending our country on the ground to the unrivaled superiority of United States armed forces in the air. From the Field to the Sky is cast in one movement in three sections. The work is unified by a ceremonial fanfare theme characterised by upward-aspiring intervals of the perfect fourth, major second and minor seventh. A cadence played on the field drum—an instrument characteristic of military fife-and-drum corps—appears as a rhythmic motif throughout. These elements provide the basis for musical development during the work’s vigorous opening and closing sections—Nobilmente—and a contrasting lyrical middle section—Tranquillo.

Rush (Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Band) was commissioned by Ryan Janus, then principal saxophonist of the United States Air Force Academy Band (located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs), and a consortium of 37 saxophonists and ensemble conductors throughout the United States. The work, composed in versions for both orchestra and band, is composed in two movements, each about seven minutes in duration, connected by an extended cadenza for the saxophone soloist. The first movement (Evening), which begins with a short cadenza that introduces the thematic material of the work, is a rhapsodic Adagietto with transparent textures. The second movement (Morning), which begins with an extended cadenza that introduces blue notes into the harmonic language, is cast in the form of a jazz-inflected passacaglia. The full ensemble begins the Allegro section with a series of syncopated chords, and the soloist then intones the passacaglia theme proper. The ensemble takes up the theme and with the soloist weaves an elaborate tapestry of ten variations based on the theme and the syncopated chords. The soloist concludes the concerto with a bravura display.

United Artists was commissioned by Larry H. Lang, then Commander and Conductor of the United States Air Force Academy Band. The work was conceived for band from the orchestral original and is a bright and energetic score, celebrating the vibrant sounds inherent in the wind medium. The principal musical element of the composition is a four-note motif—the intervals of a descending perfect fourth, an ascending major sixth and an ascending minor second—stated forcefully at the outset by the entire ensemble. This motif is extended and taken up in various melodic and harmonic combinations by the players and provides the basis for musical development and transformation throughout the remainder of the composition.

Andrew Wyeth’s haunting image of Christina Olson, resting solitary in an open field, her back to the viewer, her body twisted toward the family homestead, provided the inspiration for this musical composition. It is her world of sea and pasture, of yearning for home, and a sense of loss and fulfilment, that I have attempted to evoke in music. Christina’s World begins with a brief introduction of two mysterious and hushed trill-chords that set the sonic tone of this work. These minor and major thirteenth chords, made up of seven different pitches each, form the basis of the modal harmonic language from which the entire work evolves. The exposition begins with Christina’s theme, a long and twisting melancholy melody sung by the flute, oboe and a muted trumpet. The principal intervals of the melody include a minor second up and down, a perfect fifth down and a minor seventh up.

This is followed by Christina’s hymn, a brief chorale presented by the cor anglais, French horn, baritones and tubas. The development section begins to unfold with an undulating semiquaver figure in the flutes and clarinets. This figure, made up of a minor second and a perfect fifth up, is contemplative, suggesting the passage of time. This figure reappears in various formations throughout the section, and during its entire length, all instruments of the ensemble sing Christina’s theme and hymn in various choirs and combinations. The coda is buoyant, pulsating with optimism, and the work concludes in a triumphant fulfilment of all the musical materials, affirming the force of nature, will, home and the power of the spirit.

Forever Free was commissioned by the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, André Raphel, Music Director, to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the State of West Virginia. Maestro Raphel suggested that I compose a work incorporating indigenous elements of the state’s musical heritage, capturing in musical sound the robust spirit of West Virginia citizens and the celebratory atmosphere surrounding the year-long commemoration of the state’s 150th anniversary. He also suggested that the orchestral version of the work be transcribed for symphonic band, thereby making it accessible for performance by high school and college students throughout the state during the sesquicentennial year. Forever Free is cast in one movement in three sections. The title is inspired by the state motto, ‘Montani semper liberi’, usually translated as ‘Mountaineers forever free’. The work is unified at the outset and closing by a ceremonial fanfare theme characterised by an upwardaspiring scalar figure based on the state song, West Virginia Hills. An arching lyrical theme accompanied by a militaristic snare drum and timpani cadence emerges from the majestic opening measures, elaborating further on characteristic melodic details of the state song. All of these elements are then deployed in various instrumental combinations, providing the basis for musical development and culminating in a buoyant fugato based on the melody of West Virginia Hills.

Kenneth Fuchs


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