This is a typical Crystal release in which a gifted
player explores some lesser-known byways of his instrument's repertoire,
in this case American works for saxophones. Some of these works were
written for and dedicated to Tse. The present release offers a wide-ranging
selection of works demonstrating the variety of approach by composers
from often different horizons. The earliest piece is the attractive
Romance by William Grant Still, probably best-known for his Afro-American
Symphony. This is a comparatively late work completed in 1966, but still
(no pun intended!) cast in a warmly lyrical idiom. A real gem and an
ideal recital piece.
John Cheetham is best-known for his ubiquitous Scherzo for brass quintet,
but his quite recent and very fine Alto Saxophone Sonata, written for
Kenneth Tse, is another attractive work that might also become popular,
with its happy blend of playfulness (in the outer movements) and of
fresh lyricism (in the slow movement). Clear-cut themes, economy of
means and formal clarity characterise this lovely piece.
All the other pieces share many characteristics, such as tunefulness,
clarity and rhythmic liveliness. All are superbly crafted and expertly
written for the instrument. Each, however, has its own character, such
as Libby Larsen's Holy Roller, a tribute to the Reverend William Seymour.
This reflects "the fervour of his faith and the extravagance of
his religious rhetoric" - hence, a number of passing allusions
to hymn tunes. Lewis's As in Stained Light, again written for Tse, displays
some minimalist influences. Canfield's Sonata, also written for the
present performer, is in four concise movements, and is yet another
welcome addition to the repertoire.
Walter Hartley's Sonata for Baritone Saxophone and Piano, an older
piece from 1976, is rather more serious and is much indebted to Schönberg,
Bartók and Hindemith. This shows in more angular themes, intricate
counterpoint, rhythmic complexity and chromatic, more dissonant, harmonies.
A few words on Jay Vosk's Thaw for alto saxophone (left hand only)
which is a real tour de force on the composer's part and on the player's
as well. Vosk handles his deliberately limited material with much invention
and imagination while clearly eschewing the 'trendy gimmicks' often
associated with modern writing for winds. A real showcase for gifted
Kenneth Tse is a wonderful, technically assured musician and he is
superbly partnered by his pianist. Excellent presentation as usual in
this series and very fine recorded sound. Clearly, this is not for saxophonists