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Kenneth Fuch's Piano Concerto Spiritualist (After Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler)

Reviews


* Review: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Jeffrey Biegel premiere Fuchs concerto

"The evening's centerpiece was the eagerly anticipated world premiere performance of Kenneth Fuchs's "Piano Concerto 'Spiritualist' After Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler" with Jeffrey Biegel, a favorite guest of the SSO, at the keyboard.

The twenty minute piece was cast in three movements which took their titles from three Frankenthaler canvases, "Spiritualist," "Silent Wish," and "Natural Answer." Fuchs's harmonic language borrowed from French impressionism and American jazz, moving with easy insouciance through progressions of seventh and ninth chords via chains of thirds. He managed minimal melodic materials with Beethovenian economy and invention, stretching the influence of motives by means of teasing canons and other contrapuntal devices.

The outer movements featured vivacious, motoric underpinning to a charming, lyrical façade. The middle movement contained the most extroverted drama, with a collision between the piece's overarching diatonicism with a burst of angular serialism shot through with saucy trombone glissandos and clattering percussion.

The relationship between soloist and orchestra was always conversation, never altercation, and Fuchs's piano writing rang true to the canon of classic concertos, capitalizing on the virtuosity of Biegel, his soloist and former Juilliard schoolmate.

Clifton Noble Jr. | Special to The Republican (Springfield, MA) - MassLive.com - 12 March 2016


* Review: Wheeling Symphony Orchestra; André Raphel, conductor; Jeffrey Biegel, Piano

Important new American piano concerto premiere in Wheeling. A break from the French repertoire brought pianist Jeffrey Biegel to the stage to present the premiere of the Piano Concerto by Kenneth Fuchs, completed in 2015, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra being one of two co-commissioning orchestras presenting premiere performances.

Fuchs' music is immediately accessible – rooted in tonality but sounding contemporary. Like other contemporary American composers such as Richard Danielpour and Roberto Sierra, he is not afraid to write in an idiom that speaks to the heart as well as the head.

Subtitled "Spiritualist," the new piano concerto is in three movements, each inspired by an abstract painting by the American artist Helen Frankenthaler. The first movement, after the painting "Spiritualist," has a bright palette and features several themes that could be described as "striving." The movement ends quietly, followed by the next one inspired by the painting "Silent Wish." This is the emotional centerpiece of the concerto, evoking the human desire for simplicity and beauty in the face of harsh reality. This beauty/simplicity was characterized by solo piano phrases reminiscent of Erik Satie's Gymnopédies, contrasted by outbursts by the full orchestra, replete with brass and percussion ejaculations of sound. The movement ends quietly but on a seemingly unresolved note, leading to the final movement inspired by the painting "Natural Answer." Here, the "striving" themes of the first movement return, accompanied by jaunty, syncopated piano writing that conveys a sense of optimism and good spirits. The concerto ends with an exhilarating flourish.

Jeffrey Biegel's performance was impressive. Clearly, he has the full measure of this music, manifested by technical mastery, effective contrasts and tight alignment with the orchestra. On the basis of tonight's performance and the warm audience reception, it is easy to imagine this work joining the ranks of important contemporary American concertante works.

Philip Nones | Bachtrack.com - 21 May 2016


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