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Takashi YOSHIMATSU (b. 1953)
Saxophone Concerto “Albireo Mode” Op.93 (2004/5) [22:53]
Toshiyuki HONDA (b. 1957)
Concerto du vent (2005) [19:07]
Jacques IBERT (1890–1962)
Concertino da camera (1935) [12 :52]
Lars-Erik LARSSON (1908–1986)
Concerto for Saxophone and String Orchestra Op.14 (1934) [21:42]
Nobuya Sugawa (saxophone)
BBC Philharmonic/Yutaka Sado
rec. Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, 23-24 October 2007
CHANDOS CHAN10466 [77:02]
Experience Classicsonline

These four saxophone concertos go, so to say, two by two in that the Japanese concertos were both written for the present soloist whereas the works by Ibert and Larsson were composed for Sigurd Rascher.
Chronologically, Larsson’s Concerto for Saxophone and String Orchestra Op.14 is the earliest work in this compilation. It was composed for Sigurd Rascher who collaborated closely with the composer. Larsson’s music is often defined as neo-classical, which is certainly true as far as many of his works are concerned and which undoubtedly applies to the beautiful slow movement of the Saxophone Concerto of 1934. However the first movement displays some rather tenser harmonies that one would not readily associate with neo-classicism. In fact, Larsson’s concerto is the most substantial work here, both in terms of overall length and of musical substance. The music is warmly melodic, attractive and beautifully written for the soloist although the saxophone part is demanding in terms of technique and musicality.
Ibert’s Concertino da camera was composed in 1935 for Sigurd Rascher but was actually first performed by another brilliant soloist of the time, Marcel Mule, who went on to play it extensively in concert. This lovely work is scored for small orchestra, actually string quintet, wind quintet and trumpet, and displays Ibert’s fingerprints to the full: clear melodic lines, lively rhythms in the outer movements, lightness of touch, piquant scoring and concision; the music never outstays its welcome. No wonder that this delightful work has become part of the repertoire and has attracted – and still does – many saxophone virtuosos throughout the world.
Yoshimatsu’s and Honda’s recent concertos, receiving their premiere recording here, were both written for Nobuya Sugawa. Yoshimatsu’s Saxophone Concerto “Albireo Mode” Op.93 was completed in 2005 and is in fact the second saxophone concerto that Yoshimatsu composed for this soloist. The first one Cyber-bird Concerto, composed in 1994, is available on Chandos CHAN 9737 (review). The Saxophone Concerto Op.93 is in two movements of fairly equal length, but with differing characters. The first movement Topaz is mostly song-like and meditative, and the music appropriately enough is lightly scored, with eerie atmosphere often suggested by wind chimes. The second movement Sapphire is more animated and capricious, although the difference between the two movements is one of fine shading rather than dramatic contrast. On the whole, the music is often attractive, well-crafted but a bit impersonal and eclectic. The second movement includes a short cadenza in which the composer briefly uses modern techniques such as multiphonics and the like, which I find at odds with the general character of the music. This seems to me a miscalculation on the composer’s part, but this is a minor quibble, and certainly a strongly subjective one.
Honda’s Concerto du vent, too, was composed for Sugawa, a personal friend of the composer, who is also a saxophone player. The music pays homage to jazz; but the composer does not overdo the jazzy connection, so the music eschews the all-too-obvious clichés that one might have come to expect. The emphasis, however, is clearly on melody and instrumental colour. I find Honda’s concerto much more satisfying as a piece of music and – more importantly – more personal than Yoshimatsu’s, no matter how attractive the latter may be. I could not help thinking that this was the saxophone concerto that Malcolm Arnold never composed, and I mean that as a compliment. This lovely work is, no doubt, a fine addition to the repertoire and could become quite popular with saxophone players willing to add to their repertoire.
Nobuya Sugawa plays wonderfully throughout. The sheer beauty of his sound is simply superb, and his flawless technique clearly matches his musicality which is never at fault. The BBC Philharmonic plays beautifully and the recording is up to the house best standards. This is a very fine release that will appeal to saxophone buffs, but I am sure that many others will find much to enjoy here, as I definitely did.
Hubert Culot

see also review by Tony Haywood



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