Keith Fitch, composer

Keith Fitch headshot

Keith Fitch currently holds the Vincent K. and Edith H. Smith Chair in Composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he also directs the CIM New Music Ensemble. Called “gloriously luminous” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, his music has been consistently noted for its eloquence, expressivity, dramatic sense of musical narrative, and unique sense of color and sonority. The Wall Street Journal has praised “the sheer concentration of his writing, and its power to express a complex, unseen presence shaping the course of musical events.”

His works have been performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia by The Philadelphia Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, and the Da Capo Chamber Players, among many others.

A native of Indiana, he began composing at age seven and began formal musical training on the double bass at age eleven. At age sixteen, he received his first professional orchestral performance. He attended the Indiana University School of Music, where he studied composition with Frederick Fox, Eugene O’Brien, and Claude Baker, double bass with Bruce Bransby and Murray Grodner, and chamber music with Rostislav Dubinsky, founder of the Borodin Quartet. He also counts Donald Erb and Joan Tower among his compositional mentors. He has been honored with awards from ASCAP, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fromm Music Foundation, Copland House, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The Ohio Arts Council, among others.

His music is published by Non Sequitur Music and Edition Peters and appears on Azica Records and Naxos Digital.

Keith Fitch's piece still premiered on March 3, 2023 with the Grossman Ensemble.


Program notes:

As a composer, I often find that my current piece is, in many ways, a reaction to its most recent predecessor. This is certainly true of still. The work immediately preceding it, Alee, is a large-scale orchestral work, much of which is fast and loud, bold and brash. Except for one brief, climactic moment, still is the complete opposite — quiet, intimate, reflective. The work is essentially comprised of two elements: a series of expressive, almost improvisational solos in the woodwinds and horn, surrounded and supported by a series of slow-moving harmonies. In fact, the entire harmonic foundation of the piece is made up of only six chords, first heard as a rapid, falling figure in the work’s opening gesture, and then explored throughout the remainder of the work. At the same time, the surface of this slow-moving music is very active but still almost silent — fingertips on vibraphone and marimba, quick figures and lefthand “hammering” (playing without the bow) in the muted strings, very quiet, uneven trills, etc. It is one world, meditative and introspective. The work lasts approximately twelve minutes in performance. still is the first commission I received following the loss of my mother in May 2020 and is dedicated to her memory. The following lines by the twentieth-century Italian poet Eugenio Montale are included in the score as an epigraph:

La vita che sembrava

vasta è più breve del tuo fazzoletto.

[Life, which once seemed so vast,

is smaller than your handkerchief.]

Grossman Ensemble premieres Keith Fitch's "still"