Solo brass and organ aren’t natural bedfellows - questions
of scale and balance arise - but as I discovered with a recording
entitled Prières sans paroles repertoire is key.
That terrific disc pairs Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)
and Simon Preston (organ) in a carefully chosen programme that,
combined with a top-flight Super Audio recording, makes this
collection sheer delight from start to finish (BIS-SACD-1109).
With those memories very much in mind I was keen to hear if
that recipe works for this new Dynamic release as well. The
label, artists and playlist are new to me, making this another
‘innocent ear’ review - the kind I like best.
Massimo Giacchetti studied at the Pescara Conservatory, has
his own quartet and has won a number of national and international
awards for his sax playing. Manuela Di Marco, also a Pescara
graduate, has attended master classes with several distinguished
organists; in this recording she plays the organ of Chiesa di
Sant Alessandro, in the Italian province of Lecco. The duo start
off with Hommage à Saint-Hadelin, by the
Belgian composer André Lamproye. Although outwardly a
serious piece - apparently this saint is much revered in the
Belgian diocese of Namur - it’s full of bounce and good
Indeed, this infectious opener had me grinning from ear to ear,
such is the charm of the piece and the enthusiasm of these two
artists. Giacchetti’s playing is simply astonishing -
clear, athletic and, above all, full of character. The movements
alternate between simple gravitas and unbridled joy; as for
the warm, generous sound of the organ it’s perfect for
the piece - and superbly caught as well. The Dynamic engineers
have come up with an ideal balance; the high, ringing tones
of the sax are as naturally rendered as the quiet, more liquid
ones. Goodness, what a heart-lifting piece this is, and how
these players make it sing.
After almost wearing out the repeat button I had to move on
- somewhat reluctantly - convinced that nothing else would please
me as much as this. Well, I was wrong, for there’s not
a dud work in this collection. Trois Mélodies grégoriennes,
by Guy de Lioncourt, a French composer and pupil of d’Indy,
has an austere beauty that ravishes the ear. This is sax playing
of a high order, and it’s complemented by Di Marco’s
discreet accompaniment. As for Sonate I, by the Québécois
organist-composer Denis Bédard, it’s both ebullient
and reflective. The closing Humoresque is a real test of Giacchetti’s
skill; needless to say, he’s not found wanting.
Ludium I-III, penned by the Austrian composer Alarich
Wallner, isn’t as dry as its title might suggest. It has
a lovely, rhapsodic feel - and an occasionally piquant organ
part - and the wistful conclusion to I is just magical.
Nothing seems to faze this duo, and the sense of shared enjoyment
is palpable throughout. Happily, the quality of these pieces
is just as consistent; the last two compositions - by Italians
Giorgio Paris and Italo Di Cioccio - are contemporary but they’re
utterly accessible. Remarkably, Giacchetti and Di Marco sound
fresh and spontaneous to the very end.
What an unexpected treasure trove this is, and how deserving
of your precious time and money. The liner-notes are lucid and
idiomatically translated too, which makes for a most desirable
Simply gorgeous; a guaranteed pick-me-up.