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David DeBoor CANFIELD (born 1950)
Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (2000)
John CHEETHAM (born 1939)
Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (2001)
Libby LARSEN (born 1950)
Holy Roller (1997)
William Grant STILL (1895 - 1978)
Romance (1966)
Leonard Mark LEWIS (born 1973)
As in Stained Light (2002)
Jay VOSK (born 1948)
Thaw (1994)
Walter HARTLEY (born 1927)
Sonata for Baritone Saxophone and Piano (1976)
Kenneth Tse (saxophone); Mami Nagai (piano)
Recorded: Roger Whitmore Recital Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, November 2001 and February 2002
CRYSTAL RECORDS CD657 [70:50]
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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 virtuosos.

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 only.

Hubert Culot


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