FUCHS Piano Concerto, ‘Spiritualist’
The song-cycle Poems of Life (2017) is the heart of this well-played, sumptuously scored programme. Setting 12 poems by Judith G Wolf about love, grief and emotional and spiritual progression, the cycle is cast as a triptych with framing prologue and epilogue. The 12 poems are dispersed unevenly between these sections, within which they flow seamlessly. It is a beautifully conceived cycle, the music tender and rich, the solo cellist and cor anglais (the wonderful Tim Hugh and Christine Pendrill) amplifying respectively the persona of the countertenor in the songs and his lost beloved. Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen sang the premiere in Virginia and has the work fully under his skin; the accompaniment by the LSO is first rate.
So is their playing in the three concertos, too, their experience of Fuchs’s style from four previous albums (recorded between 2004 and 2014; this newcomer was set down in August 2017) showing. The concertos are all very different in format, with only that for piano, Spiritualist (2016) – named after the first of three paintings by Helen Frankenthaler – using the regular fast-slow-fast template. The Piano Concerto is a deftly constructed set of responses to Frankenthaler’s paintings (Silent Wish, which inspired the central movement, adorns the booklet cover), but I do not think it communicates quite the depth of artistic debt to the painter about which Fuchs writes eloquently in the booklet, despite the virtuoso advocacy of Jeffrey Biegel (for whom it was written).
Glacier (2015) is a suite in five picturesque movements for electric guitar inspired by Montana’s national parks, while Rush is a rather Bernsteinian diptych for alto saxophone with a punchy, roof-raising final passacaglia. Both soloists are exemplary. Naxos’s sound is terrific.