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Italian Baroque
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713), arr. Torben SNEKKESTAD (b.1973) Concerto Grosso, Op.6 No.8 in G minor, ‘Fatto per la Notte di Natale’ (1714) [14:09]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736) arr. Charlotte ANDERSSON (b.1973) Orfeo (1735) [15:59]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725) arr. Torben SNEKKESTAD (b.1973) Concerto Grosso No.1 (1740) [6:37]; Concerto Grosso No.2 (1740) [7:38] Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736) arr. Charlotte ANDERSSON (b.1973) Salve Regina (1736) [10:27]
Copenhagen Saxophone Quartet: Torben Snekkestad (soprano saxophone), Maret Petersen (alto saxophone), Jeanette Balland (tenor saxophone); Charlotte Andersson (baritone saxophone); Mathias Hedegaard (tenor); Viggo Mangor (organ)
rec. Hendriksholm Kirke, Copenhagen, March 2006

This is an engaging oddity of real charm and, in places, genuine beauty. Not recommended for the more unbending or puritanical authenticist, the rest of us can enjoy the delightful improbability of what it sets out to do, and how well it does it.

The Copenhagen Saxophone Quartet was founded in 1998; there have been a few changes of personnel, through which the Quartet has maintained its commitment to contemporary music – playing work by composers such as Xenakis and Per Nørgård, Cage and Ligeti. Commissions have included work by the Danish composers Anders Brødsgaard, Simon Christensen and Svend Hvidtfelt-Nielsen. But they have also always shown an interest in playing arrangements of music originally written for rather different instrumental forces – there are works by Busoni, Mendelssohn and Dvorak in their repertoire. And a substantial number of Baroque works. Their third CD, indeed, was devoted to arrangements of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (ClassicO classcd 489), on some of which they were joined by the recorder player Michala Petri. Now they turn their attentions to a more varied programme of Baroque music, on which they are joined by the fine young tenor Mathias Hedegaard and, playing Baroque organ, by Viggo Mangor.

The results are consistently enjoyable. In Corelli’s ‘Christmas Concerto’, the vivace opening of the first movement and the suspensions of the slow movement work equally well in this arrangement for four saxophones and the closing pastorale is winningly beautiful. One has, of course, to be willing to forget the familiar sounds of a famous piece, but the quality of both arrangement and playing does much to facilitate – and reward – such a ‘forgetting’.

Pergolesi’s chamber cantata Orfeo gets an attractive vocal interpretation by Hedegaard (texts and English translations of all the vocal tracks are provided), not least in the poignancy of ‘O d’Euridice’, in which Charlotte Anderssen’s arrangement captures much of the power and beauty of the original writing for strings and continuo.

The same undemonstrative, intelligently qualified fidelity is evident in Torben Snekkestad’s arrangements from Alessandro Scarlatti. Some of the individual movements here, such as the central grave of the second Concerto Grosso are altogether exquisite – these arrangements are not merely parasitic, they throw new light on the originals, they are works which evidence both originality and respect.

There is a fitting climax to the disc in Charlotte Andersson’s beautiful arrangement of Pergolesi’s Salve Regina, in which Mathias Hedegaard gives an affecting and compelling performance – so much so that one quite forgets the ‘oddity’ of the instrumental accompaniment. Indeed the vocal qualities of the supporting quartet of saxophones give to the piece an emotional intensity which, if not greater than that of the original, might perhaps be thought to be more direct, more immediately accessible to modern ears not fully attuned to the idioms of the baroque.

Though what the Copenhagen Saxophone Quartet is doing is significantly different, this CD may well appeal not only to undogmatic admirers of the baroque, but also to those who have enjoyed creations such as the John Surman-Stephen Stubbs-John Potter recording of Dowland (ECM New Series 1803) or the Officium and Mnemosyne of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble (ECM New Series 1525 and ECM New Series 1700). In truth, however, what the Copenhagen Saxophone Quartet are doing is rather less radical and, in some ways, musically more substantial.

Glyn Pursglove


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