The contemporary American composer, conductor, and professor of composition Kenneth Fuchs (b. 1956) has been writing music for several decades now and has made over a dozen recordings, five of the last six with JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony. His works include music for orchestra, band, chorus, and various chamber ensembles and differ in genre from classical to popular. More important, for those worried that any modern composer is inevitably going to annoy them with dissonant, discordant, unharmonic, atonal notes they don't understand and don't enjoy, be assured that Mr. Fuchs's music is charmingly melodious and approachable.
The four works represented on the present album are all world-première recordings, the first one, the Piano Concerto "Spiritualist" from 2016 featuring American pianist Jeffrey Biegel and inspired by three paintings by Helen Frankenthaler. The music is fresh and vigorously pursued by Biegel and Falletta. Although it may not have enough in it to make it truly memorable, it has enough flair to pass an agreeable twenty minutes or so. The second, slow movement is particularly graceful and serene in its outer sections, growing more agitated and turbulent in the middle before settling back into a quiet rest. Taken on its own, it might be worth the price of the whole album.
The next work is called Glacier (2015), a concerto for electric guitar (D.J. Sparr, electric guitar) and orchestra. Fuchs says he based each of its five movements on the natural elements of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. These are powerful reflections, ranging in mood from tranquil to mysterious to majestic, all of them colorful and picturesque. You don't get many (any?) classical concertos for electric guitar, but this one seems to do it justice. It may be a good crossover piece for fans of pop-rock guitar to hear just how versatile the instrument can be. Again, wonderfully entertaining and well executed, with elements of Rodrigo along the way, and probably my favorite complete work on the disc.
The program concludes with Rush (2012), another concerto, this one for alto saxophone (Timothy McAllister, alto sax) and orchestra. It alternates a jazzy, up-tempo, band-like mood with a more bluesy tone. While it's fun if somewhat inconsequential, it does prove the considerable and multiple talents of Ms. Falletta, Mr. McAllister, and the LSO.
Producer Tim Handley and engineer Jonathan Allen recorded the music at Abbey Road Studio 1, London in August 2017. With a shelf full of Grammy awards for producer Handley, and with Abbey Road Studio 1 being like a second home to the LSO, it's no wonder the sonic results are so good. The hall resonance is mild but still pronounced enough to lend the music a lifelike, sometimes enveloping air. The entire experience, soloists and orchestra, appears just a tad close, but with it comes a nice clarity, with percussion especially well rendered. The stereo spread is wide and the depth of image moderate. It's a fine, modern recording.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: