Erika Fox was born in Vienna in 1936 to an Orthodox Jewish family who got out in time and landed in Britain. She had some success in the British new music scene in the 1960s and 1970s, but then, as tastes shifted away from atonal music, she was largely forgotten. However, she kept writing, creating major works into senior citizenhood; the pieces here date from 1980 through 2005. Fox's style falls into the general orbit of the Second Viennese School, but as it has developed, it has taken on a capacity to evoke extramusical ideas. It is a little hard to divine Fox's thinking on this point. She writes in a lively booklet note that she agrees "with Stravinsky's assertion that music does not 'express' anything outside itself... My allusion to poetry is simply to say what has inspired me." In reference to Café Warsaw: 1944 she writes of the musical representation of a waiter's tray whirling among the clients. This work was inspired by a Czeslaw Milosz poem about his experiences as the sole wartime survivor of that café's clientele, and it's an eerie, funereal work. Sample the second-movement Lament. The bonus track, Kaleidoscope (available online) perhaps encapsulates Fox's approach: it is both abstract and evocative of its subject. With On Visiting Stravinsky's Grave at San Michele, a solo piano work played by Richard Uttley, Fox proves capable of absorbing the style of a non-Viennese composer of the era, and perhaps that's the best way to look at her accomplishment here. She has developed a flexible language, rooted in straight modernism but capable of multiple resonances. Those resonances include Jewish sacred music, which the listener will discover in several places on this album. Not for those who have rejected atonality wholesale, but recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Café Warsaw 1944|
Track Listing - Disc 2