Going by his previous recordings (Naxos Ballades
and Naxos Impressions
) Theodore Kerkezos is a saxophonist with a mission. There’s nothing untowards in that especially if like me one of your weaknesses is the sound of the saxophone in all its guises.
This disc presents five fairly rare works for sax and orchestra three of which (D’Indy, Debussy and Schmitt) were commissioned by Elise Boyer Hall (1851-1924) an early pioneer enthusiast of the instrument. The Debussy is done in dreamy and sultry style, eyes half closed, with the humidity high at one moment and dry in its Moroccan finery at the next. For me Kerkezos catches this work more atmospherically and with greater sinuous élan than Jean-Marie Londeix
on the classic 1970s Martinon Debussy cycle. The pacing is more flexible and spontaneous and the realm more ecstatically sensuous with Simonov and Kerkezos. The Schmitt Légende
has more narrative steel, seductive contrast and Ravel like impressionism. The more I hear by Schmitt the more I want to hear. The whole thing is a delight and the ending is a masterly sequence. Tomasi is as deserving of really serious attention as Schmitt. Would that Chandos or Bis take up his case and begin a whole series of orchestral recordings. Here the mix across the two movements is rife with fantasy, violence and a heady brand of danger and seduction. The finale - Giration
is jazzy, feral and a little out of control but for the peroration grasps a sunny eminence and ends in a final orchestral slash. D’Indy’s Choral Varié
is an immersion in slow melancholy and warm unhurried grandeur. Paule Maurice’s Tableaux de Provence
was new to me. It is in five diminutive movements: I Farandole des jeunes filles
(Dance of the Young Girls); II Chanson pour ma mie
(Song for my Love); III La Bohémienne
(The Bohemian Girl); IV Des Alyscamps l’âme soupire
(The Sigh of the Soul for the Alyscamps); V Le Cabridan
(The bumblebee). They’re all agreeably light on the aural palate, a good valedictory contrast with the other works and utterly charming. Their mood is similar to that established by Milhaud’s Suite Francaise
and Suite Provencale
and Canteloube’s orchestration of the Auvergnat songs. I hope we will hear more by her.
This is a lovely disc, well documented and crying out with discoveries.