FOX solo piano CD, reviews


More Light
Prime Site
Complimentary Forms
Paired off
More things in the air than are visible

Metier Sound & Vision 1998, MSV CD92022

“THIS DISC is a good introduction to the work of a composer (b 1955) who is both an interesting conceptualist and a craftsman well able to realise his ideas in an aurally satisfying way. More Light(1988) is a subtle, 23-minute unfolding, during which repeated ideas steadily alter their shapes – a homage to Morton Feldman and indirectly to Cage abnd Monet. Prime Site works on the opposite principle of avoiding repetition altogether. More things in the air than are visible (1994) is a three-part structure using taped sounds (mechanistic and atmospheric, repectively) in the outer sections. There the pianist is confined to detached chords, but is given his head in the florid middle part. Also included are two brief tributes: Paired off(1995), built on the musical letters of Erik Satie’s name, and Complimentary Forms(1996), built on those of Michael Finnissy’s.Pace plays with clarity and fervour throughout.”

“A CRISP introduction to an interesting British composer (b 1955). During the course of More Light (1988) repeated ideas steadily alter their shapes. Prime site (1997) works on the principle of avoiding repetition altogether.”

“‘MORE LIGHT’ may be the first CD of Christopher Fox’s music to appear. It is one of the first releases on Metier, a label which has become an essential outlet for contemporary British composition. Born in 1955, Fox is a fascinating figure. His music seem disparate stylistically, not surprising perhaps when one considers Fox’s avowed rejection of style, rhetoric and gesture in favour of musical process. Certainly he subverts the traditional contract between minimalism and complexity – his pieces have affinities with both. The influences likewise seem diverse. More Light is the major work, its slow music a memorial to the great, lamented American composer Morton Feldman: its request for “more light” ultimately ends in forlorn failure. Complementary Forms is dedicated to British master Michael Finnissy on his fiftieth birthday, while Paired Off is based around Satie’s “Pear-Shaped Pieces”. This is music where the apparently bland exterior discloses a wealth of invention on repeated listening. Pianist Ian Pace’s performances are exceptional and insightful”

“CHRISTOPHER FOX merges often complex technical procedures into sensuous streams of sound that beguile as well as fascinate the ear. More Light illustrates this to perfection. None of the other pieces is as gripping, although More things in the air than are visible finds a satisfying solution for enveloping the piano within a wider, although never neutral ambience.”

“MINIMALISM and complexity seem unavoidable labels. Though they’re inadequate, they offer some guide to the listener through the confusing mass of contemporary composition. But then along comes Chris Fox, a composer who messes up journalistic simplifications because he clearly has affinities with both camps. More Light is the first of two CDs of Fox’s music on Metier, which is becoming an essential source of some of the most uncompromising new compositions.

Chris Fox, born in 1955, is a tantalising figure in British music. None of the pieces in Ian Pace’s recital of his piano scores is remotely similar. This seems to be true of Fox’s output as a whole – less conventional works include “Trummermusik” for mezzo-soprano and hurdy-gurdy, and the multimedia “Alarmed And Dangerous” , which crosses the boundaries of documentary, radio play and music. This disparate quality follows from Fox’s avowed rejection of style – and rhetoric – in favour of musical process.

All the pieces here are first recordings. Influences come from many directions. More Light is the major work, and its slow music a memorial to Morton Feldman. The attempt to achieve ‘light’ ends in forlorn failure. Complementary Forms is dedicated to Michael Finnissy on his 50th birthday, while Paired Off is based around Satie’s “Pear-Shaped Pieces”. More things in the air than are visible involves tape in is two outer movements. There’s parallel with the Irish composer Gerald Barry, who’s similarly non-expressive and exploits a wide variety of approaches. The results here are undeniably intriguing – music where there’s always a lot going on, often beneath an apparently bland exterior. Highly Recommended.

“Christopher Fox’s composition, More Light, begins with dancing figures that gradually break down and are replaced, after a brief pause, by others that are, at first, similar, and then after a while are not. Gradually these are reduced to a small compass of pitches, fractured and naggingly repetitive, which are followed once again by a measure of silence. The next section moves at what one could call ‘Feldman tempo’ (the slow material in this piece is dedicated to him). During its 23-minute timespan, the various sections of More Light change and change again, sometimes evolutionarily, sometimes abruptly and without precedent, always interestingly. The CD contains two other large compositions: Prime Site , which is harmonically ambiguous and structurally complex (there is no narrative, so to speak, and – if I’ve understood it correctly – as the music progresses in its alzheimer-like fashion it retains a vivid memory only of what occurred barely a moment ago, and of a more distant, ‘historical’ memory), and More things in the air than are visible, all three movements of which are markedly different in character. This last point is true of the shorter pieces, too. Ian Pace plays this powerful but almost unfathomable music with great sensitivity. The sleeve notes by Pace and Fox could hardly be better, and I’m bound to say I’m looking forward to the companion volume that Metier has promised. ”