Kenneth Fuchs World Premiere by The Phoenix Symphony

Kenneth Fuchs was commissioned by the Phoenix Symphony to compose a substantial new symphonic work, and the resulting 15-minute Quiet In the Land will receive its World Premiere on March 16 & 17 under the baton of Tito Muñoz. The program, at Phoenix’s Symphony Hall, will also include Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto played by Steven Moeckel.

If the title sounds familiar it is because Fuchs does indeed have an earlier work in his catalog for mixed quintet by the same name. No mere musical expansion, the orchestral Quiet In the Land is a vast new canvas which draws more from the spiritual themes of the 2003 quintet than the musical ones. Writes Fuchs:

In 2003, during the invasion of Iraq by the United States, I composed a work for flute, clarinet, English horn, viola, and cello, titled Quiet in the Land. At the time, I wondered how quiet the spirit of our land might be and intended the inconclusive harmony of the piece to suggest an ambiguous answer. I noted to myself that the piece might be worthy of orchestral treatment, but put it off to another day.

Fourteen years later, disquiet in our land has grown more apparent, and the scale of an adequate musical response now demands the expressive and coloristic palette of a full symphony orchestra.

Some of the structure and a few fragments of the original composition survive in the orchestral work of the same title, and the harmonic language remains ambiguous.

I wrote about An American Place, my first major orchestral work, that “I wanted to create a score that emerges from the rich palette of musical sounds that have developed in the United States, and one that also suggests the rich body of music created by the American symphonists who have come before me, and from whom I continue to take inspiration.” I dared to hope that the finale scherzando would express “the brash optimism of the American spirit.” I still feel that optimism, but time has changed both me and the country I love.

I am still searching in this music to express the grandeur of our national spirit and the geographical majesty of our country. Although purely an abstract musical composition, Quiet in the Land can be heard as a sonic ode to the expansive spiritual landscapes and immense arching sky of the American West. But it also expresses the fact that our Nation is in great peril on account of a tumultuous political climate, deep divisions between people both at home and abroad, and the intolerance of so many factions.

Quiet in the Land is cast in one continuous movement and is unified by a chorale, hesitantly stated at the outset, which reappears throughout the composition, alternating with violent orchestral outbursts. (In the chamber piece, the chorale alternated with lyrical fragments played contrapuntally.) The principal musical elements of the entire composition (as before) include the intervals of a minor second, major and minor thirds, a perfect fifth, and a minor seventh.

Quiet in the Land was composed June through December 2017 in Mansfield Center, Connecticut (in the “Quiet Corner” of the state). I am indebted to my friend and Phoenix resident Judith G. Wolf and the members of the Phoenix Symphony Commissioning Club.

February 7, 2018