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Romances for Saxophone and Orchestra
Joanna BRUZDOWICZ Largo for soprano saxophone and string orchestra (1991) [3:58]
David MORGAN Three Vignettes for alto saxophone and string orchestra (2005) [27:35]
Subaram RAMAN (b. 1986) Aria for alto saxophone and string orchestra [8:11]
Wojciech KILAR (b.1932) Vocalise (1997) [4:24]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959) Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (Aria only) for saxophone and cellos [6:54]
Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000) Concerto for saxophone and string orchestra op. 344 (1980) [24:31]
James LEATHERBARROW Don Quixote in Love for soprano saxophone and orchestra (2004) [9:58]
Eugene BOZZA (1905-1991) Aria (1936) [4:47]
Greg Banaszak (soprano and alto saxophones)
Beethoven Academy Orchestra/Piotr Borkowski
rec. 7-9 July 2006, Krakow Concert Hall, DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2889-90 [49:59 + 39:16]

Experience Classicsonline

Bruzdowicz, a pupil of Messiaen with a gift for Gallic-accented melody, launches this collection with her Largo. It's from her film music for Jacquot de Nantes (1991) - Rachmaninov's Vocalise out of Fauré and with a decidedly sombre curve. Away from the soprano saxophone to the alto with Raman's gentle Aria which was inspired by the Bozza Aria. Raman was a pupil of Paul Chihara - who himself wrote a saxophone concerto (1981) which was premiered by Harvey Pittel in Boston. Raman's Aria moves in dove-gentle tones between Barber and Vaughan Williams. Kilar's Vocalise, with solo parts for harpsichord and piano, unfolds at unhurried leisure. It has the mien and plaintive droop of the quieter parts of Nyman's Where the Bee Dances. The Villa-Lobos is well enough known from the soprano original - a pity we do not get the whole thing. Leatherbarrow was born in England but is how studying in the USA. His Don Quixote in Love is an offshoot from a work-in-progress, tone-poem The Last Dream of Don Quixote for soprano saxophone and full orchestra. The work heard here is tender and melodic with a Delian susurration over which the saxophone slowly glides and courses. Gleaming strings melt their way from phrase to phrase. The sound recalls an intensely romantic take on the ‘seagull music’ from Watership Down. Bozza's equable and feminine Aria is the oldest piece here. It was dedicated to Marcel Mule. The apt orchestration is by Hunter Ewen. While Bozza cannot quite match his likely models, the Ravel and Fauré Pavanes, this is certainly an agreeable and moodily pleasing piece.

David Morgan (not the same David Morgan whose Contrasts recently featured on Lyrita), based at Youngstown University, writes for both the jazz and classical worlds. The triptych that is the Three Vignettes was written specially for Greg Banaszak. The first vignette is The Secret of the Golden Flower and moves without effort between Vaughan Williams and an Oriental sway: fast, punchy and meditative. Consolation has the contours of a primitive church hymn moving through a mist of melancholy. The final First Light makes play with Latin-American dance. Elements of rumba and tango are married to 1950s-style commercial sophisticated light music. Morgan's writing is delicate and luminously orchestrated. An undemanding delight.

The Hovhaness concerto was written for the New England Conservatory, then performed once by the Chatauqua Symphony and forgotten. The composer's widow assures us that like many works of its vintage the solo line was written with her high coloratura voice in mind. This seems completely plausible and by all means listen to the later Poseidon CDs for further proof. The three movement concerto pleases with its high sinuous solo line and breathing string figuration. The second movement is a surprise: its instrumental solo melody suggests sentimental British music-hall rather than Eastern esoterica. The composer also draws here on a dashing Mozartian effervescence which only once reconnects with Hovhaness's core lingua franca. The finale carries the archetypical title Let the Living and the Celestial Sing. It returns us to the composer's 'campground' with delicate pizzicati, great wheeling yet grounded angelic paeans and sinuous foregrounded solos. These are lent airy movement by surprising interactions with the warm string choir. Intriguingly, even in this last movement, Hovhaness admits elements of sentimentality to interact with the devotional.

The helpful notes are by Dr Myron Schwager and provide us with pretty well everything we want to know about this music. It's a shame we don't get birth years for some of the composers and dates of some of the compositions. Also regrettable are persistent little errors such as Hovhannes for Hovhaness and Rubenstein for Rubinstein. These are small flies in the ointment in what is a pleasingly consistent collection for those wanting melodic tonal music for saxophone and orchestra.

Rob Barnett




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