Between Two Worlds
: Music for saxophone and organ
André LAMPROYE (1929-2004)
Hommage à Saint-Hadelin (Cantique (Entrée solennelle) [5:01]; A son maitre Remacle (Méditation) [2:31]; L’Envoi en mission (Choral) [2:23]; Le miracle de la source (Offertoire) [2:03]; La résurrection de Guiza (Communion) [3:12]; Au Christ couronnant (Sortie) [4:25])
Guy de LIONCOURT (1885-1961)
Trois Mélodies grégoriennes (Clemens rector [1:53]; Puer natus est [1:31]; Pascha nostrum [1:38])
Denis BÉDARD (b. 1950)
Sonate I (Inventino [3:21]; Barcarolle [4:26]; Humoresque [3:43])
Alarich WALLNER (1922-2005)
Ludium I-III [14:16]
Giorgio PARIS (b. 1961)
Alio modo [4:51]
Italo Di CIOCCIO (b. 1953)
Dialogue [6:36]
Massimo Giacchetti (soprano and alto saxophone)
Manuela Di Marco (organ)
rec. 6-7 July 2011, Chiesa di Sant Alessandro, Barzio, Italy
DYNAMIC CDS 724 [61:51]
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 humour.
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 issue.
Simply gorgeous; a guaranteed pick-me-up.
Dan Morgan 

Simply gorgeous; a guaranteed pick-me-up.