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Historic Saxophone
Jules DEMERSSEMAN (1833-1866)

Fantasie sur un thème original
Premier Solo (Andante et bolero)
Deuxième Solo (Cavatine)
Jérôme SAVARI (1819-1870)

Fantasie sur des motifs du Freischütz
Paul Agricol GENIN (1832-1903)

Variations sur un thème espagnol
Solo de concours du Conservatoire
Jean-Baptiste SINGELÉE (1812-1875)

Solo de Concert
Joseph ARBAN (1825-1889)

Caprice et variations
Léon CHIC (1819-1916)

Solo sur la Tyrolienne
Hyacinthe KLOSE (1808-1880)

Daniel (Fantasie dramatique d’après E Depas)
Claude Delangle (saxophones)
Odile Delangle (piano)
Recorded Danderyd Grammar School, 1998 and 1999
BIS CD 1270 [64.43]

The newly invented saxophone made an immediate appeal to composers of paraphrases, fantasies, concertante show pieces, conservatoire test works and the like. It fitted in with the established primacy of French wind playing and gave a versatile novelty to the genre. This disc salutes those imperatives in fine style. No-one could really elevate, with any convincing seriousness, the essentially decorative nature of the music or its appeal to anything other than the more fluid and superficial genres – but what these works set out to do they do well and with technical accomplishment.

Jules Demersseman strikes me as the most accomplished overall of these composers. He’d been a fellow student of Adolphe Sax in Brussels and was in fact two years older than the innovator. Not only did he compose for the instrument very early but also he wrote for a range of instruments, not just the expected alto. The Fantasie sur un thème original begins with a dramatic flourish and explores register changes in a way familiar from Conservatoire Flute and Clarinet test pieces. There’s splendid virtuosity here and plenty of opportunities to flaunt some sportive runs. His two Solos are for baritone and tenor saxophones – the Second is a competition "tester" – with opportunities for the soloist to impress first with legato phrasing (not easy on a baritone unless you’re a Harry Carney or Joe Temperley) and then with the rhythmic élan and rhythmic dexterity of the final section. The other pieces generally conform to the expected models – transcriptions from Savari on themes from Freischütz, vivacious variations from Genin (his Spanishry is typically cod but really winning) and little genre works such as Singelée’s Caprice and Fantasie – the first named of which is a lyric piece that tests breath control to the utmost. Both incidentally are played by Delangle on a soprano. The same composer’s Concerto (for tenor) is effectively elegant and melodious and Chic’s Solo shows off a nice fanfare flourish of an opening.

The Delangles play with panache and adroit techniques with Claude covering the range of saxes – soprano, alto, tenor and baritone – with aplomb and a consonant tone. One can sense the excitement with which these minor composers – bandsmen, performers, teachers – seized the opportunity to write for the new instrument and some of that vigour still clings to these versatile performances.

Jonathan Woolf


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