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Spirito Latino
Francois BORNE (1840 - 1920), arr. Iwan Roth and Raymond Meylan Fantasie Brillante sur des airs de Carmen
Manuel de FALLA (1876 - 1946), arr. Daniel Gauthier Siete Canciones populares Españolas
Claude DEBUSSY (1862 - 1918) Rapsodie
Georges BIZET (1838 - 1875), arr. Paul Harvey Spanish Serenade
Enrique GRANADOS (1867 - 1916), arr. Larry Teal Intermezzo (from Goyescas)
Christian GUILLONEAU (b. 1958) Bal pour Baptiste
Darius MILHAUD (1892 - 1974) Scaramouche
Vadim NESELOVSKYI (b. 1977) San Felio
Daniel Gauthier (saxophone)
Jang Eun Bae (piano)
Recorded 17-18 August 2004, Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen
MUSIK DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 6003 1324-2 1CD [65.26]

 

Daniel Gauthier is the professor of classical saxophone at the Cologne Academy of Music. With his saxophone ensemble, the Alliage Quartet, he has recorded a disc of arrangements as well as a disc of miniatures for saxophone and piano (both issued on Dabringhaus und Grimm).

On this disc he addresses himself to some more substantial works, not only arrangements but some of the few weighty classical pieces written specifically for the instrument. The title of the disc is Spirito Latino but if you can get beyond this bit of marketing-speak, you will find that Gauthier has assembled a rather interesting programme.

He opens with a Carmen transcription; the Fantasie Brillante sur des airs de Carmen. This was written in 1900 by Francois Borne, a composer about whom little is known. The original, popularised by James Galway, is for solo flute; here it has been adapted for saxophone. The result is a real pot-pourri, mixing and matching themes and snatches of melody as if Borne (or his arrangers) were determined to be different. But all the major themes are there and one of the arrangementís strengths is the way all of the familiar melodies build up in succession towards the end. Borne does not necessarily present Bizetís themes straight, there is much variation and decoration which gives Gauthier a chance to show off his superb technique. I was particularly taken with the Chanson Bohème, where Gauthier plays an arpeggiated variation on the tune, highlighting the melody notes in a way which almost has you believing that there are two saxophone players Ė quite magical.

If the Carmen transcription displays Gauthierís easy virtuosity, then his own arrangement of de Fallaís Popular Spanish Songs enables him to showcase his fine, singing tone. Though he spins some wonderfully long lines in these songs and produces a rich creamy saxophone sound, I rather miss the words; perhaps the arrangement is a little too respectful. Still, Gauthierís technique is fabulous. He makes it all sound so easy.

This is followed by a substantial original work by Debussy. The Rapsodie was originally written for saxophone and orchestra. According to the notes this version lends Ďeven greater weight to the saxophone partí, though whether this means that Debussyís saxophone part has been rewritten, Iím not sure. We definitely enter a different musical world here. The opening section with its haunting harmonies and nuanced saxophone writing is reminiscent of the twilight world of Jeux, written three years after the Rapsodie. The instrumental writing gradually develops increasing brilliance and both Gauthier and his pianist, Jang Eun Bae, show both technical virtuosity and musicality.

They follow this with a charming adaptation of a Bizet song, Ouvre ton coeur. The rather Spanish colouring enables Gauthier to give it under its sub-title Spanish Serenade. More real Spanish music is provided by a surprisingly effective arrangement of the Goyescas Intermezzo by Granados. This makes you forget that the original was intended for different forces entirely.

Another work written specifically for saxophone is Bal pour Baptiste by the French composer Christian Guilloneau. The Baptiste in question is his young son and the two movements are based on two of the dances popular at French folk balls. The first is a jazz-influenced slow number and the second an infectious tango; a thoroughly entertaining, if undemanding work. Something of more substance is Milhaudís early Scaramouche. Though ostensibly light-hearted and audience pleasing, Milhaudís melodic gifts hint at deeper feelings, particularly in the melancholy middle movement. Gauthierís performance is nicely judged and if you donít already have this infectious piece I can thoroughly recommend you buy this disc to get it.

Finally, Gauthier and Bae finish with another contemporary item, by the Ukrainian Vadim Neselovskyi. Though classically trained, Neselovskyi now works exclusively as a jazz performer. San Felio is inspired by the composerís summer stay in the Italian town of the same name. It is an effective piece, very much in the spirit of John Adams. How you appreciate it will depend on how you react to music written in Adams-esque style.

This is an imaginative and well thought out programme, enabling us to savour Gauthierís technique and to hear some of the few pieces written for solo saxophone. It makes for charming and sometimes thoughtful listening.

Robert Hugill



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