Friday, 22 March 2019

The French 20th century saxophone: Tableaux de Provence from Dominic Childs & Simon Callaghan

Tableaux de Provence - Childs, Callaghan - Resonus
Debussy, Decruck, Maurice, Borne Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 22 March 2019 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A recital which highlights the French love affair with the saxophone in the 20th century

The French composers of the late 19th and 20th centuries seem to have had an affinity with the saxophone. On this new disc from saxophonist Dominic Childs and pianist Simon Callaghan on Resonus Classics we have works by Debussy, Fernande Decruck, Paule Maurice and Francois Borne.

Quite how much of Debussy's Rhapsodie for saxophone and piano is by Debussy is anyone's guess. It was commissioned by the redoubtable Elise Hall, an American who took to the saxophone and commissioned composers accordingly. Debussy worked on his Rhapsodie for eight years and never really finished it, when he died he apparently left an orchestral sketch, and it was the composer Jean Roger-Ducasse who tidied things up. The version performed on this disc is revised by Vincent David.

It is a poetic and fluid piece that makes the most of the saxophone's liquid tones. Much of it is quietly evocative and mysterious, flowing between sections until building up quite a head of steam at the end. There is lovely interaction between Childs and Callaghan, with Callaghan making poetry of the piano part, letting you forget it may have started life as a piano reduction of the orchestral score.

Fernande Decruck came from a small village near Toulouse, studying at the Conservatoire de Toulouse and the Conservatoire de Paris, becomining the first woman to write a work for the band of the Garde Republicaine. Her husband was a clarinettist and saxophonist, playing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, which perhaps explains her fondness for the saxophone.

Her Sonata of 1943 rises from deep dark piano tones, becoming almost berceuse-like. The music flows easily and for all the occasional busy-ness of detail, the result is mesmeric. The second movement seems to flow from the first, fluidly lyrical, whilst the faster third movement Fileuse continues to flow onwards. The finale is a quietly hypnotic nocturne with sudden impressionistic waves of excitement.

Born in Paris, Paule Maurice studied at the Conservatoire, yet she seems rarely written about. She and her husband spent each Summer in Provence, which seems to have inspired her Tableaux de Provence, a suite of five movements for saxophone and piano. The opening Farandoulo is a perky dance with spice in the harmonies. A lyrical song follows, Cansoun per ma Mio, haunting and impressionistic, whilst La Boumiano is fast and rhythmic. Dis Alyscamps l'amo souspire is laid back and almost bluesy, finally the toccata-like Lou Cabridan.

Francois Borne's Fantasie Brillante sur des airs de Carmen was originally written in 1900 for flute and piano, and proves to be an attractive re-working of themes from Bizet's opera notable for the way Borne mixes things up rather than working through the opera from beginning to end.

This is an imaginative, attractive and remarkably poetic recital throwing a side-long glance at French 20th century music and sometimes neglected aspect of the saxophone.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918), revised Vincent David - Rhapsodie for orchestra and saxophone (1903)
Fernande Decruck (1896-1954) - Sonate in C sharp minor (1943)
Paule Maurice (1910-1967) - Tableaux de Provence (1954-59)
Francois Borne (1840-1920), arr. Iwan Roth & Raymond Meylan - Fantaisie Brillante sur des airs de Carmen (1900)
Dominic Childs (saxophone)
Simon Callaghan (piano)
Recorded 18 April, 30 May, 1 June 2017 in Bradby Hall, ,Halleybury College
RESONUS CLASSICS RES10231 1CD [54:33]

Available on-line.

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  • Into the harem and beyond: the richness & exoticism of the music of Fazil Say (★★★★) - CD review
  • Thrilling dynamism: Taverner's Missa Gloria tibi trinitas on Signum (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Imaginative debut: Rarities by Lalo and Milhaud on Hee-Young Lim's debut disc of French cello concertos (★★★½) - Cd review
  • Not heard since its 1956 premiere: Eugene Bozza's oratorio Le chant de la mine from Valenciennes (★★★½) - Cd review
  • One last show: Bury Court Opera draws the final curtain, with a terrific account of Britten's The Turn of the Screw (★★★★½) - opera review
  • Almost music theatre: song cycles by Dominick Argento and Robert Schumann from Sarah Connolly at Wigmore Hall (★★★★) - concert review
  • Emotional soundscapes: the music of young Australian composer Brendon John Warner on his debut album La fonte  - CD review
  • Highly engaging: revival of Mozart's The Magic Flute from Simon McBurney, ENO & Complicit├ę (★★★★½) - opera review
  • Magnificent original: Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake restored in a superb performance from Vladimir Jurowski on Pentatone (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Intimate conversations: the young Jubilee Quartet in three quartets spanning 20 years of Haydn's maturity (★★★★½) - CD review
  • Riveting drama: Peter Konwitschny's production of Halevy's La Juive at Opera Vlaanderen (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Claustrophobic & atmospheric: Verdi's Macbeth from English Touring Opera (★★★½) - opera review
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