Richard Fuchs Archive Launch 2008 - Danny Mulheron's Speech:
Thanks to their Excellencies the Governor General, the Hon. Anand Satyanand and Susan Satyanand for hosting this event, Thank you to all of you for coming out tonight. I hope you have a wonderful time. This will be the world premiere for much of the music you are about to hear.
Richard Fuchs died sixty years ago without ever having heard his works performed. When he arrived in New Zealand in 1938 he brought with him some recommendations from some of the greatest maestros of the twentieth century: Felix Weingartner, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and he pleaded with the nascent musical organisations of the time to perform his work. But apart from a very few, Frederick Page, Molly Atkinson, Phil Armstrong, (whose son, Donald, is leading the quartet, and whose other son, David, I still write and eat with to this day), his major works remained unheard in New Zealand.
It wasn't anyone's fault. Richard came from a generation earlier than the young modernists who were reshaping the future at the time. His was a different tradition. Romantic, Mahlerian - his musical heroes were Schubert, Hugo Wolfe, Mahler and Wagner. His Germanic, Bruchnerian tones were not what was wanted in New Zealand at the time. He wrote a frustrated letter to Frank Hutchens a well known Australian composer of the time saying that "New Zealanders were either 100 years back in musical taste or snobs of the most atonal ( I had attempted to write atonal) craziness".
New Zealanders at the time were searching for a New Zealand voice, a New Zealand sound, and new poets, like Baxter and Glover, were replacing Mulgan and Duggan, who harked back to a more European tradition. Richard's late daughter Eva put it simply, "New Zealanders wanted a New Zealand composer not a Jew from Germany".
He did write New Zealand music - military marches; and A New Zealand Christmas Carol, that was sung after his death for the Queen's visit in 1953. But apart from that there has been next to nothing… until at the prompting of Steven Sedley, who is here tonight as our Guest of Honour, I unearthed a carton of Richard's manuscripts - songs, a symphony, choral works - all beautifully hand written.
This research led to Richard's former music school in Karlsruhe devoting a concert to Richard Fuchs' German works, which my wife, Sara, and I decided to film. We took my mother, Soni, over there and filmed a documentary we called The Third Richard that will be screening on 21st August at the Paramount Theatre.
That in turn led to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) performing his Symphonic Movement in the Made in New Zealand series earlier this year under the conductor Ken Young, another old family friend. And now tonight, we will hear the world premiere of some of Richard Fuchs' New Zealand Chamber Music. His Quartet composed in 1945; followed by two songs from his German life, sung by the wonderful Jenny Wollerman; and, finally a Piano Quintet composed in 1941. First we will hear the Quartet in E major, a two movement string quartet that Richard Fuchs composed in 1945 (Musical programme begins).
In a letter to Todd Duncan, a visiting American baritone, in 1949 two years after Richard died, Eva said "When Richard died I swore to myself to get his work recognised. If not in New Zealand, then people outside New Zealand. I'm no judge of music - if it is not worthwhile let it rest in peace as its creator". But, if it is worth while? Todd Duncan thought so - he sung one of the songs you are about to hear, Auf den Tod Eines Kind
During rehearsals Donald and Richard Mapp said that a song or two would complete the concert. In a huge rush I approached Jenny Wollerman, hoping to maybe get one of her students to learn them. I was hugely pleased when after seeing the music she agreed to sing them herself. Jenny is a fantastic singer and these two songs are my favourites of Richard Fuchs'. They were written in 1937 during the height of Nazi persecution and were terribly prescient of what was about to happen to him. So I would like you to welcome Richard Mapp and Jenny Wollerman. (Musical programme continues)
Songs: In der Fremde and Auf den Tod Eines Kindes
Shortly before his death Richard gave an address to the New Zealand Chamber Society on Mahler. He could have been talking about himself: It is said Mahler died of homesickness and I am tempted to say that all his creative work, in a higher sense is homesickness too. Mahler was a Jew by race and deeply felt the spiritual need to be at home somewhere on this planet.
It is significant that Richard Fuchs is now being accepted as part of his adopted home of New Zealand. Mahler was a huge influence on Richard Fuchs, as this music shows, but he brings his own quirky touches. It is certainly unlike anything else that was being composed in New Zealand at the time. This three movement String Quintet in D Minor was composed in March 1941 (Musical Programme continues).
Quintet in D minor: Three movements
The reason for this concert was to raise consciousness of what we felt was a significant but lost composer, but also to launch the Richard Fuchs Archive. This will be a Trust to preserve, publish and promote his work. Some of you may wish to help either as trustees or benefactors. And on the 21st of August this year I hope you will attend the documentary film of his life: The Third Richard, which we've been working on for the last 18 months.
All a composer needs is to be heard, and if nothing else tonight we will have given Richard Soloman Fuchs the opportunity to be heard. It is an opportunity which I know he would thank you for. My family and I certainly do.
I would like to thank his Excellency, the Governor General, and his wife; Steven Sedley, Richard Fuchs’ biographer who discovered this lost composer, and the musicians: Donald Armstrong, Christina Vaszilcsin, Vyvyan Yendal, Brendon Veitch, Richard Mapp and Jenny Wollerman. And thank you to the Adam Foundation for helping make tonight possible.
Their Excellencies have asked me to extend an invitation to you all to take a look around Government House. It's a magnificent place so those covetous amongst you do take advantage of that invitation.
Thank you and enjoy your evening.