This disc of works by living composers opens with the intoxicating
sound of the soprano saxophone, with its directness and purity
heard in American composer Rodney Rogers’ Lessons of the Sky.
This is a varied work of almost 10 minutes duration, which uses
fragments and phrases which are repeated and developed. There
is a central slow section which gives a lovely sense of variety,
and the music seems to have its own buoyant momentum.
Robert Muczynski’s Sonata is much darker
in comparison, partly due to the change to an alto saxophone.
Muczynski is of eastern European descent but was born in the
United States. His slow lines are powerfully expressive and
hypnotic while his fast music is strongly rhythmic and biting.
Lara James handles the slow movement with a wonderful sense
of shape, and the jaunty Allegro energico is played with
drive and had me bopping along from the opening bars. Jeremy
Young’s piano playing is precise and controlled throughout.
Here Again is a short work for soprano
saxophone and cello by Canadian composer Colin MacDonald. The
two instruments complement each other well, and here each plays
an individual melodic line which weave in and out between the
two. This is a good performance, although there are a few minor
intonational problems, and the saxophone is slightly stronger
than the cello in the balance.
Façades is perhaps one of the
best known contemporary pieces for saxophone and orchestra,
and here Philip Glass’s music is well represented. The soft
sound of the strings from Sinfonia Viva provides the perfect
backdrop for Lara James’ soprano sax. I would perhaps have liked
the saxophone to be a little more present in the mix at its
opening entry. The multi-tracked saxophone parts are well balanced
between themselves, although the ensemble is sometimes a little
imprecise with the strings. This music is deceptively simple;
in fact it is difficult to get right, and James’ attempt is
a good one.
Painter’s Sonata is much more contemporary in style and
provides a good contrast to the Glass. Commissioned by Lara
James, this piece serves as a demonstration of the saxophone
in a modern classical context, and receives a convincing performance
here. The sensual slow movement is particularly enjoyable, with
some beautifully shaped phrases and a subtle jazz influence.
James and Young form an excellent partnership and work together
disc ends with Graham Fitkin’s simple and short Glass,
which has a flowing soprano saxophone melody heard over gentle
piano chords. This is a highly effective work which is performed