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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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The Classical Saxophone
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)

Saxophone Concerto (1933) [14.26]
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)

Sonatina No. 1 for saxophone and small ensemble Op. 194 No. 1 (10.43)
Sonatina No. 2 for soprano saxophone and small ensemble Op. 194 No. 2 (10.39)
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)

Concerto da Camera for alto saxophone and eleven instruments [12.16]
André CAPLET (1878-1925)

Légende for alto saxophone, string quintet, oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1903) [13.33]
Jules DEMERSSEMAN (1833-1866)

Fantaisie sur un thème original (1860)
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Intermezzo from L'Arlésienne (1872)
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

The Old Castle from Pictures at an Exhibition (1874)
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Pièce en forme d'Habanera (1926)
Jean FRANÇAIX (b.1912)

Cinq danses exotiques (1962)
Eugène BOZZA (1905-1991)

Aria (1936)
André JOLIVET (1905-1974)

Fantaisie-Impromptu (1953)
Rudy WIEDOEFT (1893-1940)

Valse vanité (1923)
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937) arr. Galina SHAPOSHNIKOVA

Three Preludes (1927)
Serge RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Vocalise Op. 34 No. 14
Pedro ITTURALDE (b.1929)

Pequeña Czarda (1983)
Jean MATITIA (b.1952)

Devil's Rag (1988)
Arno Bornkamp (saxophone)
Camerata Amsterdam/Jeroen Weierink (Glazunov, Koechlin, Caplet, Ibert)
Ivo Janssen (piano)
rec. 1994, Church Kortenhoef, Netherlands (CD1); 1995 Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, Eindhoven. licensed from Channel Classics and Challenge Records.
BRILLIANT 6476 [61.39+59.29]

Classical pieces for saxophone have done well over the last five years with multiple discs issued on Arte Nova, Naxos and Marco Polo. Champions such as John Harle have taken centre-stage and works like Where the Bee Sings by Michael Nyman have held court in concert halls, on television and on radio. The instrument effortlessly bestrides classical, jazz and popular. It has followers who are entranced by its strangely mellifluous throatily vocal speaking tone. The boundaries between classical and popular tend to fade in the face of such loyalty.

What do we have here. Two discs: one with music for sax and orchestra; the other for sax and piano. The orchestral material is especially fascinating.

The single movement Glazunov is a central monument to the concertante literature for the instrument. It is an epitome of the lyrical tradition. Although written in 1936 for Sigurd Rascher it could easily have been written in 1905 such is its roundedly mellifluous character. Here it is warmly recorded and cosseted by Bornkamp and Brilliant. It is a lovely work and should be in your collection. If you know the Violin Concerto then you have some idea what to expect. The two Koechlin sonatinas (primarily written for oboe d'amore but here disporting in the composer's alternative version for saxophone) are more in the nature of suites. They are sometimes classically poised rather than romantically eloquent although the third movement of the second sonatina is more dreamily complex. Think of them as similar in effect to the Albinoni or Pergolesi concertos as arranged by Arthur Benjamin. The gem of the two suites is the first movement of the second sonatina.

I was much looking forward to the Caplet having heard his scorchingly imaginative and tragic Epiphanie for cello and orchestra earlier this year. This dates from much earlier in the composer's short life at a time when the saxophone had its first solo celebrity. It is a rhapsodically extended piece with a pleasing serenading character but without the scorch and acid of Epiphanie. The work was uncovered as recently as 1988 by Londeix. The Ibert is truculently flighty and extremely showy with a pronounced jazzy 'Tin Pan Alley' attitude in the Allegro con moto and concluding Animato molto giving way to a melancholic siesta in the Larghetto.

The second CD has eighteen pieces for saxophone and Ivo Janssen's piano. The Demersseman has the cantabile of Bellini and the bubbling effervescence of the Weber and Crusell concertos for clarinet. The Bizet Intermezzo starts sternly with beetling Beethovenian clangour from the piano. The Mussorgsky will be familiar from the orchestral version. The sultry Ravel piece may be less familiar. Françaix's suite, across its five miniature movements, is alive with Latin American atmosphere, is scatty and athletically rhythmic (Pambiche, Mambo, Merengue) as well as dreamily sultry (Baiao, Samba lenta). The slow treading Bozza Aria is Bach-like (perhaps influenced by Villa-Lobos) in its sustained cantabile. The Jolivet is at first an exotic siesta of a piece then takes off in unmistakably Gershwin-like directions. The Wiedoft piece is a hesitation waltz reeking of the Palm Court with a central tumble-chase. Here Bornkamp rather guys the sentimentality. Shaposhnikova's arrangements of the three Gershwin preludes for solo piano lend all three pieces a disconcertingly updated feeling through their treatments and effects. This is not a purist approach but it is good to hear the traces kicked over in this way. The famous Vocalise is treated to a peaceable contemplative rather sleepy approach. At 7.13 it is the longest piece on CD2. Bornkamp should have a look at Medtner's Sonata-Vocalise or indeed John Foulds' Lyra Celtica as pieces probably also suitable for such arrangements. The Itturalde is from 1983 and is not quite the sort of commercial pandering I had feared. It is succulently melodic and elusively melancholic until we get to the wild czardas. From five years later comes Matitia's gatling speed piece - chattering jerky superficialities - ragtime and Dixey!

Bornkamp was born in Amsterdam in 1959. He has developed a reputation as a lyrical soloist who is happy with high tide romantic works for the instrument as well as the contemporary works of Franco Donatoni, Louis Andriessen and Geert van Keulen. His solo debut took place in Rome in 1982 with the Ibert concerto. He has studied with Jean-Marie Londeix and worked with the composers Luciano Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen. His tone is extremely warm. His key movements are silent - no finger-clatter.

Defying Brilliant's occasional practice the notes and discographical details are on this occasion detailed and exemplary.

The singing soul of the instrument is laid bare against the background of the orchestra in the first disc and the piano in the second. Only the ultra-contemporary side has been neglected. The commercial jollity of Itturalde and Matitia don't fit that bill. Superbargain basement price. Even seasoned collectors will find much here to reward their negligible outlay.

Rob Barnett



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