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.