ERIKA FOX (b.1936): Paths Where The Mourners Tread, Quasi Una Cadenza, On Visiting Stravinsky’s Grave at San Michele, Malinconia Militaire, Café Warsaw 1944.

Catalogue Number: 08V050

Label: NMC

Reference: D254

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Fox enjoyed considerable success in the 1970s, 80s and 90s - her music was performed in major festivals by renowned ensembles, and widely broadcast - and then she fell into obscurity. The booklet notes postulate several theories as to why, but strangely omit the two most obvious ones; her music isn’t "easy" and the wind changed increasingly in the direction of new tonality of one sort or another. Some outstandingly fine music has resulted from neo-Romanticism, minimalism and so on, but for those of us of a certain age who wax nostalgic for the days when you really had to pay attention to all the details at once in a new piece that had no interest whatsoever in ingratiating itself with you, the rediscovery of Fox's output will come as something of a breath of fresh air. Not that she sets out to make her music refractory or forbidding - in fact, it is neither - but the fons et origo of her impetus to compose was her childhood "... in a Hasidic rabbinical family, where music, dancing, rituals and a belief in miracles were part of daily life." She explains this succinctly herself: ""Since my music owes almost nothing to Western musical tradition, and almost everything to my childhood memories of Jewish Liturgical chant and fragments of Hasidic melody, there is no harmonic development as such, rather single melodic lines, often in heterophony, held together by dint of varied repetition, and moulded, sometimes by use of percussion, to provide a ritualistic and perhaps theatrical whole." Paths Where The Mourners Tread exemplifies this approach; the music is not tonal, and harmony is relatively unimportant and incidental; the textures are heterophonic, and individual voices are often modal, though with microtonal inflections suggesting chant, an impression reinforced by the chiming of bells and ritualistic drumming. The dark piano quartet, "Military Melancholy" is a response to the tense, conflicted poetry of Amelia Rosselli and also to the Iraq war, which was in progress at the time of composition (2003). Although composed more 'conventionally' than Paths the lines remain independent and linear. The tribute to Stravinsky, perhaps partly because of the nature of the piano and partly because of the subject, is more chordal, in Stravinskyan harmonies and direct gestures, than the other works here. It consists of a number of contrasting, apparently unrelated gestures, juxtaposed in kaleidoscopic combinations. Goldfield Ensemble; Richard Baker.


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