Rolf MARTINSSON (b. 1956)
Golden Harmony. Soprano Saxophone Concerto No. 1 (2012) [25:08]
Sven-David SANDSTRÖM (b. 1942)
Four Pieces for Soprano Saxophone and Symphonic Band (2003) [12:01]
Anders ELIASSON (b. 1947)
Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and String Orchestra (2002/2008) [31:01]
Anders Paulsson (soprano saxophone)
NorrlandsOperan Symphony Orchestra/Christoph Altstaedt (Martinsson); Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Tobias Ringborg (Sandström); Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Johannes Gustavsson (Eliasson)
rec. Helsingborg Concert Hall, Helsingborg 30-31 May 2011; De Geerhallen, Norrköping 31 May and 1-2 June 2012 (Eliasson); In Norrlandsoperan, Umeå, 7-8 September 2012 (Martinsson)
Swedish saxophone player Anders Paulsson (b. 1961) has his roots in both jazz and classical territories. Having started with recorder he then took up the clarinet and from there explored the saxophone family before finally settling with the highest specimen, the soprano saxophone. For jazz-diggers of my generation who got to know all the big names through Voice of America’s shortwave broadcasts in the fifties and early sixties, this instrument is forever associated with Sidney Bechet. His meaty tone and wide vibrato - someone even likened it to the neighing of a horse - made for a memorable signature. Anders Paulsson’s tone is lean, clean and beautiful. Technically he probably has few if any peers.
Of the three works on this disc Rolf Martinsson’s Golden Harmony is the newest, composed during the summer 2012 and premiered the same September at Norrlandsoperan. The first movement, Tranquillo, is immensely beautiful, the soprano saxophone weaving long, melodious cantilenas above or in front of a luminous orchestral tapestry. The atmosphere is relaxed jazzy. Like the soloist Martinsson also has one leg in the jazz camp and sometimes I get the feeling of listening to film music. No offence intended - for me film music is a positive word, music that expresses intimate feelings. These many years I have had a soft spot for Franz Waxman’s A Place in the Sun, and though Martinsson’s music is something quite different they have the saxophone in common. Long stretches in Golden Harmony are unaccompanied solos. Where the orchestra is present the fabric is often very transparent. In other places Gil Evans could have been an inspiration. The first movement is by far the longest, covering more than half the total playing time. The second movement follows attacca and the general mood is the same as before. The third movement, Energico, lets loose the adrenalin and, rhythmically thrilling, brings the composition to a riveting end.
Sven-David Sandström’s contribution to this disc doesn’t claim to be a concerto. The four short pieces are organised to function as a symphonic structure with a slow and sorrowful second movement and a light-hearted and talkative scherzo third movement. There are two more dramatic outer movements, both with percussion: the first nervously flickering phrases punctuated by heavy brass chords, the fourth intensely rhythmic. This is entertaining music in the best sense of the word.
Anders Eliasson’s concerto is a reworking of his concerto for alto saxophone from 2002. The work is in one long span but within that frame one can detect movements of differing character. The soloist is at work practically incessantly and considering the length of the composition, more than half an hour, this requires a player with impressive stamina. Moreover the tessitura is generally very high. It is a very beautiful work, full of contrasts. The finale is an accelerando where the soloist gradually climbs to a penetrating climactic note.
As always with Phono Suecia’s productions the technical side is impeccable with excellent sound and orchestral playing of the highest order and Anders Paulsson is phenomenally assured in his solo playing.
A fascinating and accessible disc with marvellous music. It should win many new proselytes for contemporary music.
Göran Forsling
A fascinating and accessible disc with marvellous music. It should win many new proselytes for contemporary music. 

see also review by Rob Barnett
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