Surely given the enormous versatility, range and power of the saxophone
there should be as many concertos for the instrument as for
the violin? Sadly of course there are not but here is a disc
that advances the cause of the saxophone as a soloist in front
of an orchestra.
The astutely compiled programme includes a Ravel transcription, some
fashionable Piazzolla in a suite arranged from some of his best
known pieces and a substantial work by arguably Switzerland's
major contributor to twentieth century composition, Frank Martin.
Lesser known but nevertheless a winner of the Prix de Rome (in
1927) is the prolific Corsican Frenchman Henri Tomasi. The disc
is completed by worthwhile works by the Greek Dragatakis and
the Spaniard Iturralde whose work crossed over into the jazz
The programme is attractive enough but what really makes this disc a
winner is the great solo playing of Theodore
Kerkezos. The solo playing is varied, subtle and extremely
sensitive to shifting moods; as needed, Kerkezos
plays with broad power and with delicate inflection. Ravel’s
Habanera might have been written for the saxophone, so
idiomatic does it sound in Kerkezos’s hands.
This disc is worth its modest price for the performance of the Piazzolla
pieces where the use of the saxophone gives them even more of
a film noir quality than usual. This particular collection
of pieces works well as a suite in this arrangement. The fugal
pieces, perhaps unexpected from Piazzolla, are strongly characterized.
As ever, Oblivion casts its melancholic spell (how was
it used in its original setting in a film of Henry V?). Strong
accounts of the popular Adios Nonino and Libertango
are adorned by some subtly haunting improvisations.
Tomasi’s Ballade juxtaposes rhapsodic music redolent of the warmth of
Provence with a breezy French neoclassical jig. Martin’s piece
offers more substantial fare in his characteristically intense
style, the orchestration (strings with percussion and piano)
being chosen to contrast well with the wind soloist. This is
perhaps the strongest piece on the CD but even the slighter
works are very well worth more than one listen. I particularly
enjoyed Itturalde’s stereotypical but lively Czárdás
which references Brahms' Hungarian Dances, Monte's Czárdás
(perhaps inevitably) and, slightly less expectedly, the
Tango-Ballade from Die Dreigroschenoper, hinting at the
relationship between gypsy and Argentinian tango music made
explicit by such bands as Zum and Lakatos.
earlier Naxos disc featuring Theodore Kerkezos
was welcomed on this site (see
review) and I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending
this one equally.