20 Songs, 1 Hour


Ratings and Reviews

Excellent Addition to Series

DCD Records

This release is the fourth such collaboration between Kenneth Fuchs and JoAnn Falletta -- and it's of the same high quality as the other three (see my review of Atlantic Riband). This time around, Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra present three Fuchs works for baritone and chamber orchestra.

Roderick Williams is the baritone soloist, and he has a warm, rich voice that is supple and expressive. And that's a good thing, because each of these works has it's own character and mood.

Falling Man is inspired by Don DeLillo's novel about 9/11. At times, the work is unsettled and chaotic, echoing the emotions of the original event. Fuchs sets some of the text in an atonal declamatory style that detaches the narrator from the action. But that detachment doesn't last. There are hints of jazz in this work, as well as a quiet, contemplative section towards the end that draws in the listener.

Kenneth Fuchs is a great admirer of John Updike, and his work Movie House sets seven of Updike's poems to music. To me, this set had a very American sound, almost as if Fuchs had used Copland as a starting point. That's not to say Movie House is derivative -- far from it. Fuchs is inspired by his material and his music responds to Updike's imagery, providing emotional context for the words.

William Blake's poems, which are set in Songs of Innocence and of Experience are perhaps the most familiar to most listeners. And yet Fuchs gives them a fresh interpretation. The settings are quite beautiful, each song a charming miniature to be enjoyed.

If you've enjoyed this series to date, you'll not be disappointed with Falling Man.

About Roderick Williams

Roderick Williams is a bass who rapidly began establishing an operatic career in Britain in the mid-'90s.

After university, Williams was a school music teacher for three years while training for a full-time career as a professional singer. He studied the opera course at the Guildhall School of Music. While there he made his operatic debut as Tarquinius in Britten's Rape of Lucretia, a part he maintains in his active repertory as a professional.

He began entering competitions and in 1992 won the top prize among basses in the Great Grimsby International Singing Competition. In 1994 he was second prize overall in the Kathleen Ferrier competition. He has also won awards from the South East Arts Music Scheme, and the National Federation of Music Societies, and was granted the Lili Boulanger Memorial Award.

He began establishing himself in the North of Britain, singing the Count in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at Opera North, and Schaunard in La Bohème at the Scottish Opera. For the same companies he has also sung Marcello in La Bohème, Belcore in L'Elisir d'Amore, Figaro in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, and Masetto in Don Giovanni.

His international debut was in 1998, when he sang Albert in Massenet's Werther for the New Israeli Opera, and in the 1999 Spoleto Festival he took the part of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in Prokofiev's War and Peace, repeating the role for Chandos' recording of the opera.

He sings solo recitals and concert appearances frequently throughout Britain and abroad, including Wigmore Hall, BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM performances. He is a composer, with works that have been played at the Barbican, Wigmore, the Purcell Room, and on British radio.

He has become something of a specialist in concert performances of operas. In this format he sang Watchful in Vaughan Williams' The Pilgrim's Progress at the Royal Opera, Harlequin in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at the Barbican Centre with the City of London Sinfonia, Richard Hickox conducting, the Novice's Friend in Britten's Billy Budd with the London Symphony, the roles of Sid in Britten's Albert Herring and Top Moss in Copland's The Tender Land with the City of London Sinfonia, and as Henry Cuffe in Britten's Gloriana with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

His recordings, besides the Prokofiev opera, include the role of Ned Keene in Chandos' prize-winning recording of Britten's Peter Grimes, the parts already mentioned from Billy Budd and The Pilgrim's Progress, and the King's Herald in Verdi's Don Carlos on Philips with Bernard Haitink conducting, and the solo part in Frank Martin's In Terra Pax. He was scheduled to record a part in Vaughan Williams' opera Sir John in Love for Chandos.

Other roles he sings are Demetrius in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Malatesta in Donizetti's Don Pasquale; the Mozartean roles of the Count in Marriage of Figaro, Masetto in Don Giovanni, and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte; The Marquis in Poulencs Dialogues des Carmelites, and the title role of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.