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Ballades for Saxophone and Orchestra
Henri TOMASI (1901 - 1971)

Ballade for alto saxophone and orchestra (1938) [15.31]
Frank MARTIN (1890 - 1974)

Ballade for Saxophone and Orchestra (1938) [14.45]
Maurice RAVEL (1875 - 1937) (arr. Hoérée)

Pièce en forme de habanera for saxophone and chamber orchestra (1907) [3.04]
Astor PIAZOLLA (1921 -1992)

Tango Suite (arr. Kerkezos) (1959 - 1987) [22.00]
Dimitris DRAGATAKIS (1914 - 2001)

Ballade for saxophone and strings (2000) [2.56]
Pedro ITURRALDE (b.1929) orchestrated by J. Iturralde

Czárdás for saxophone and orchestra (1949) [7.35]
Theodore Kerkezos, Saxophone
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Roberto Mineczuk
Recorded 9 November 2003, illegible
Notes in English, Deutsch, Français. Photos of artists.
NAXOS 8.557454 [66.13]

 

Most of the pieces in this collection of orchestral saxophone music are really interesting and very well performed. I had never heard the Tomasi before and found it delightful. The Martin is one of those works where the composer experimented with tone rows in one voice, tonally fleshed out in the others. It is characteristic and intriguing if not his greatest music. The Ravel piece was produced in versions for various instruments; I actually know it mostly from the flute and guitar transcription, but this one works equally well, although the soloist does not use glissandos to bring out the ethnic flavour of the music. The Ballade is soulful but brief, and the brilliant Czárdás is a real rouser with a stunning saxophone cadenza, and the orchestra joining in in a final shouted "Hey!"

I thought the Piazolla was played rather matter-of-factly with little verve or lift or sense of idiom. The "fuga" movement is irritating, almost cacophonic, although the soloist deals heroically with his difficult part. The "Misterio" movement is anything but. The "Fugata" is slightly more successful, and the lovely "Oblivión" almost works but could still use a little more sense of weary nostalgia. "Adios Nonino" is partly a reprise of the "Preludio" with a locomotive introduction and comes off best of the set; here the soloist produces a nice glissando which he should have also used in the Ravel. "Libertango" comes off more as an exercise in syncopation than a sinuous dance. Whether the fault is that of the composer, arranger, orchestra or conductor, I donít think itís the soloist. In fact Kerkezos does a splendid job with the complex phrasing and produces a controlled, beautiful tone throughout the extended range.

In case you were looking for the Debussy Rhapsody, that is on a previous disk in this series, #8.557063. This disk might have been labelled "Volume II."

The recording location is printed on the label, but the phototypesetter overprinted the lettering making it illegible. Naxos is spending a lot more money these days on attractive cover art but apparently not on proof-readers.

Paul Shoemaker

see also review by Rob Barnett


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