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Halfway Reflections
Volodmyr RUNCHAK (b.1960)
Saxophone Concerto, piano reduction by the composer [17:00]
Ida GOTKOVSKY (b.1933)
Brillance (1974) [9:57]
Paul CRESTON (1906-1985)
Saxophone Sonata, Op.19 (1939) [14:34]
Robert MUCZYNSKI (1929-2010)
Saxophone Sonata, Op.29 (1970) [8:13]
Miha FERK (b.1985)
Reflection No.1 [7:34]
Ryszard Żołędziewski (saxophone)
Marek Werpulewski (piano)
Jacek Ropski (violin)
rec. 2012-15, Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wroclaw, Poland

This album is a project by musicians of the Academy of Music in Wrocław in which there is a ‘democratic equilibrium’ between the worlds of the saxophone and the piano. That’s a rather fancy way of talking about, in the main, sonatas but the programme is certainly appealing in its own way.

Volodymyr Runchak has produced his own reduction of his Saxophone Concerto, though it’s not always easy to extract any information from this release as there is no booklet, simply one paragraph that draws together a few putative themes; a booklet would surely have helped the listener, not least because of the relative obscurity of some of the works. The Ukrainian composer’s Concerto is an attractive one even in reduction where its journeying from sparseness to a dancing middle section, thence to vivacious jazzy paragraphs is enlivening. Best of all, perhaps, is the romantic reverie that occurs shortly before the close; a convincing, well rounded work, communicative and the opposite of stylistically doctrinaire.

Ida Gotkovsky studied with both Nadia Boulanger and Messiaen and Brillance, composed in 1974, is a striking, compact four-movement piece. Gotkovsky is, in any case, well-known for her saxophone compositions and this one, with its sparky Scherzino-like second movement and its expressive lyricism made it a splendid addition to the repertoire. Add to this the dynamic piano writing, rolling figures and rhythmic energy, and insouciant sax themes and you have a cast-iron winner of a piece. The score suggests a playing time of 12 minutes, but the duo here whip up the energy-quotient and go faster.

Creston’s 1939 Sonata is undoubtedly the most internationally admired piece in the programme. Its elegance and appeal to the saxophone’s songful qualities bring it close to the lure of popular song and its balance of tranquility and pep is finely judged here. Robert Muczynski’s 1970 Sonata is certainly not a rarity either in the world of sax and piano studies. The duo of Ryszard Żołędziewski and Marek Werpulewski play it well, ensuring the contrasts are maintained between the two movements – one slow and expressive, the other fast and exciting, the rich textures of the former, with bluesy hues, pitched against the rolling energico of the latter. Still, for an even more exciting ride turn to Signum’s Lara James in her Fašades album of contemporary saxophone works, who is less maestoso in that first movement and even more quicksilver in the finale. Miha Ferk’s Reflection No.1 ends the recital and offers the sole opportunity to hear violinist Jacek Ropski in this undulating, filmic, and very approachable piece.

The recording is unproblematic and well-judged and yes, it would have been advisable to commission a booklet note, but otherwise this is a well programmed and most attractive selection.

Jonathan Woolf

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