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Sawing to New Heights with Steve and Dale: Music for Saw and Piano by Steve Margoshes

I want to make Magic – from the musical Fame
Neapolitan Serenade
"The Dream" Theme
Let’s play a Love Scene – from the musical Fame
Procession for Two
Fatima’s Theme
A Chinese Melody
October Song
Song without Words
Bring on Tomorrow - from the musical Fame
Dale Struckenbruck (Saw)
Steve Margoshes (piano)
Recorded (?2003)
4TAY 4025 [48.26]


Steve Margoshes wrote the music for ‘Fame’ and has recorded selections from it before – in orchestral garb and in versions for violin. Here he plies a more domestic course and accompanies Saw Maestro Dale Struckenbruck in their duo, Dale and Steve, rather better a name than Struckenbruck and Margoshes, which sounds like a corporate law firm. The musical saw has had its place on the boards, in Music Hall and Variety, and has even inspired such as Henri Longuet to compose seriously for it. Not that these pieces aren’t exactly serious but the saw, played sitting, and with a bow with the pitch controlled via bending the blade, lacks the ethereal outer-spacery of the theremin but is a definite advance on the spoons, which are altogether too rhythmic or gutturally vertical (though I did once hear a Leicester Square busker who was a veritable Heifetz of the spoons).

Between the kazoo and the swanee whistle lies the Serengeti of musical paraphernalia in which the musical saw takes its prominent place. Here it rises to Romantic heights (the first movement of the Neapolitan Serenade for instance) with a fervour that quivers with metallic intensity. The duo even manage to invest the music with romanticised gesture – where the rallentandi in "The Dream" Theme are apt and wavery with import. In October Song composer Margoshes threatens a Bachian Fugue – and cultivates other devices as registral leaps (fine left hand blade bending from Struckenbruck) and a kind of Mischa Elmanesque long bow. This is a devil of a thing to achieve on the saw but maybe he’s been listening to long-bow experts such as violinist Adolf Busch in his quest to produce an unquavering line (it’s true he’s not entirely successful but the quiver is more a squall than an Irish Sea vomit inducer).

Still that’s the lure and peril of the musical saw; the pathos, the queasy intonation, the slapstick, the silent variety stage where comics once plied their trade. It’s a pity that the final track, Bring On Tomorrow sounded so awkward; it made me want to Call Back Yesterday. Still, the disc comes obviously with the composer-performer’s imprimatur (fine piano playing from Margoshes in Procession For Two). My only aside is technical. What is the occasional shuddering squeak to be heard amidst the legato wail of the saw? Is this a chink in Struckenbruck’s technical armoury? Is this a component feature of blade bowing? I think we should be told.

Jonathan Woolf

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