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Fairy Tales - Recital Music from Eastern Europe
Alexandre TCHEREPNINE (1899-1977)
Sonatine sportive (1939) [6:40]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Five Melodies, Op.35 (1920) arr. Kyle Horch [12:37]
Eduard TUBIN (1905-1982)
Sonata for alto saxophone and piano (1951) [13:46]
Ivan MARKOVITCH (1929-2017)
Complainte et Danse (1964) [5:49]
Tőnu KŐRVITS (b.1969)
Wings (2011) [5:13]
Eduard BALSYS (1919-1984)
Three Fragments from the ballet Eglė, Queen of the Serpents (1960) arr. Kastytis Mikiška [8:21]
Krzysztof HERDZIN (b.1970)
Fairytale Stories (1995) [14:56]
Kyle Horch (alto and soprano saxophones)
Yshani Perinpanayagam (piano)
Anya Fadina (piano: Balsys and Herdzin)
rec. December 2019, Recital Hall, Trinity School, Croydon

The saxophone is the focus of this recital disc of music by composers from Eastern European countries. Further westward and the two figures of Marcel Mule and Sigurd Raschčr would have been the obvious inspirations for the majority of these pieces and, indeed, in the case of Tcherepnine – then based in Paris – it was Mule who considered the Russian émigré’s 1939 Sonatine sportive to be an important new repertoire piece for the saxophone. With trademark Les Six writing, there’s playful wit at work, the title of the piece strongly hinting that it encodes sports throughout its three crisp movements: boxing, half-time, and the race. These afford opportunities for deft exchanges – whether feinting phrases, or a slow refined breather in the central panel before a droll finale that presents a race to the finish line.

Tcherpnine’s is an original work whereas Kyle Horch has arranged Prokofiev’s Five Melodies, Op.35 for saxophone and piano. Originally cast as vocalise, though later much more often heard in its violin arrangement, using the saxophone makes sense given its ability to produce long songful lines. This works particularly well in the second movement, the Lento, where the legato warmth of Horch’s playing takes on its own human vocalisation. Tubin’s Sonata dates from 1951 when he was in his mid-40s. It’s a marvellous work which balances long lines with alternating rhythmic astringency – richness and urgency – complete with harmonic instability. The central movement’s inspiration was a medieval troubadour song, which Horch and Yshani Perinpanayagam play delightfully, and the finale is airy and deft.

Ivan Markovitch, Belgrade-born in 1929 but who moved to Paris in 1960, wrote his Complainte et Danse in 1964. It’s cast as a kind of verbunkos, the lassú languorous, folkloric, and decidedly Bartókian and the friss full of vehement excitement. The Estonian composer Tőnu Kőrvits was born a few years after Markovitch wrote his Complainte et Danse and so brings us up to date with his 2011 piece, Wings. It reveals a constant feature of his compositions, which is an ability to summon up a powerful sense of atmosphere. In this respect this five-minute work offers a masterclass in languid lines, dappled piano responses, saxophonic colour, half tints and evocative coloration.

Eduardas Balsys wrote his ballet Eglė, Queen of the Serpents in 1960 and worked with his younger colleague Kastytis Mikiška to fashion from it a suite for the birbynė, a Lithuanian folk instrument. Mikiška’s daughter Rusne is a saxophonist, hence this arrangement for the soprano saxophone. These three arrangements from the ballet offer folk-like simplicity but strong character, as well as charming, lissom warmth and capriciously curling lines. The natural world figures strongly – schools of darting fish, a wisely observant owl, all reflected in this ingenious arrangement. The final piece is Krzysztof Herdzin’s Fairytale Stories composed in 1995 in eight little panels. The Polish composer writes that they’re ‘like a soundtrack to a non-existent cartoon movie for children’ and what I hear ranges from jazz-tinged virtuosity, rhythmic vitality, languid elegance, an occasional Satie-like moment and a rip-roaring finale.

Hoch and his two pianists, Perinpanayagam – in the majority of the pieces – and Anya Fadina in Balsys and Herdzin, are eloquent exponents of these pieces, most of which are little known and therefore valuable as a collection. The school recital hall acoustic is somewhat distant but one’s ear adjusts and the balance between the instruments is good.

Jonathan Woolf

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