KENNETH FUCHS – SQ No. 2 – Where Have You Been

American composer Kenneth Fuchs [born 1956] has written five string quartets thus far. His music is basically tonal with some modern passages.

SQ No. 2 is titled Where Have You Been and contains five named movements.

Heart of Darkness opens with a solo cello and occasional interjections from the ensemble. There is a loud flourish and a period of rhythm which leads into a passage for solo violin. The follows a period of dissonance before the solo violin returns. It’s very busy until it drops back to a pizzicato cello, and a fade to the end.

The Other Side commences with a rather timid rhythmic motif. A pastoral melody emerges from the violin and the key changes. The violin continues on its way into the upper register together with the second violin. The viola and cello join in and maintain the pastoral feeling. The cello has a solo passage; after a while interjections occur. The tempo ceases and the violin returns to its high register. A gentle accompaniment concludes the movement.

The Marriage opens in a serious tone before the violins take over with an alluring duet. This eventually recalls the serious opening. This passage is a little confronting and concludes the movement.  It only runs for just under three minutes.

They Are Not Heard at All starts with a solo violin. The music covers the whole tonal range of the instrument. I keep wondering when the other instruments will enter. At about two minutes there is a bit of movement but the solo violin continues. Eventually, some accompaniment occurs but the violin continues to be extremely dominant. This is turning into a solo violin piece with occasional very sparse statements from the other members. Taken as a whole, the violin investigates many moods as it journeys through the piece.

Where Have You Been has a rhythmic pulse from the start. An exquisite violin melody occurs but is soon discarded for a conversation between the violin and noisy interjections from the ensemble. Nearing the end we have a positive mood change as the piece makes for a hurried exit.

There are two things worth mentioning about this work as a whole. Firstly, it contains so much violin to so little ensemble playing. Secondly, there are many of what I would call interjections that seem to turn up at random, usually totally destroying the nature of the violin mood. Taken together, these two features leave me feeling a little dissatisfied.

This work is still very interesting and I intend to revisit this composer again. He’s definitely worth persevering with. Some listeners might find the interjections angry. Personally, I feel they are just a little miffed 🙂

Regarding availability, Quartets Nos. 2, 3 & 4 can be found by the American SQ on Amazon US and UK. No. 5 is available on the Naxos label. It can also be found on Spotify. No sign of No. 1…

There are many Kenneth Fuchs’ quartets on youtube, but unfortunately not No. 2. As I said, it is on Spotify.

Listenability: Interesting, if a little unsatisfying.


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