I have a dual career as composer and as musicologist. My compositions have been performed by musicians such as Richard Craig, Neil Heyde, Peter Hill, Christopher Redgate, Alain Trudel, Julian Warburton, and Barrie Webb, and by Capricorn, distractfold, Exaudi, Exposé, Fretwork, Virelai, the Kreutzer String Quartet, Quator Diotima, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Orlando Consort, and Trio Atem. My music has been performed and broadcast in Canada, the U.K. and in mainland Europe.
Ever since the trombone and percussion duo Structures en Bronze (1986-7), close collaborations with performers have been an essential component of my compositional outlook, which focuses on the acoustic properties of instruments and seeks out performance situations whereby they communicate most effectively to an audience. This partly explains why my output consists exclusively of works for solo instruments, duos, and small ensembles (including vocal). The performance contexts I envisage often take account of the works alongside which my own pieces are programmed.
Since 2002, when the lutenist Jacob Heringman asked me to write Per Serafino Calbarsi I: Rondeau de Panurge for his ensemble Virelai, pieces for instrumental ensembles specialising in early music have alternated with works for performers of contemporary music. From that date I have worked on two concurrent cycles that combine ancient and modern influences: Per Serafino Calbarsi is based on texts by François Rabelais, and the agricologies on the music of Alexander Agricola (c.1456-1506) and a number of modern or contemporary artists (David Smith, Jean Dubuffet, Cornelia Parker). Both cycles are still in progress (I think…). I am currently working on a piece for Baroque and Böhm and flutes for Stephen Preston and Richard Craig, and on a piece for viola for Emma Lloyd.
For various reasons I haven’t updated this blog for a long time. I hope to start doing so again more regularly now.
Alongside my compositional work I have written extensively on a series of composers from the early Renaissance, including Ockeghem, Obrecht, Agricola, and the Eton Choirbook composer John Browne. All these composers share a very individual approach to the musical language of their period. In studying these figures I argue (amongst other things) for their relevance to contemporary music.
Most composers dislike being either pigeon-holed or asked to describe their music. The ’cellist Neil Heyde, once introduced me as ‘the minimalist wing of New Complexity’. As pigeon-holes go, that’s a description I could live with.
Fabrice was born in Bagnères-de-Bigorre (France) and has triple nationality (also Canadian and British), having been raised in Toronto and Bordeaux and lived in the United Kingdom for many years. He studied composition at the Conservatoire National de Région de Bordeaux, at McGill University, and privately with Brian Ferneyhough thanks to grants from the Canada Council for the Arts. In 1995 ho obtained his Doctorate in musicology from Manchester University with a study on the masses of Ockeghem, under the supervision of David Fallows. He taught music for 15 years at Durham University and was Head of Graduate School at the Royal Northern College of Music. He moved to Scotland in 2018 and is now Senior Research Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Glasgow). He is also known as a reviewer, notably with Gramophone, for which he has been writing since 1993.
The monograph Renaissance Polyphony was published in 2020 by Cambridge University Press. It sums up 25 years of teaching, researching, and thinking about the topic with the help with many students. The noted musicologist John Milsom reviewed it in Music & Letters (2022), writing that ‘everything is impeccably done. Fitch is an expert guide, deeply knowledgeable about his subject, and up to date with recent research. Others might have tackled the task differently, but none could have done it better.’
My most recent project blends my compositional and musicological work. I have restored Obrecht’s fragmentary Missa Scaramella, which survives in two out of an original set of four partbooks (the top voice and the tenor are lost). I began this many years ago with my late friend and colleague Philip Weller, and have completed it over the last 18 months. It will be published next year by the Dutch KVNM (their equivalent of the Royal Musical Association) and recorded by the Binchois Consort under the direction of Andrew Kirkman, who will give public performances of it in Regensburg in May 2024 (Tage Alter Musik) and in Antwerp in August (Laus Polyphoniae).