Tuesday 11 July 2023

An engaging and eclectic selection: Soar from Alastair Penman and Jonathan Pease

Soar: Pedro Ituralde, Richard Rodney Bennett, Robert Planel, Andy Scott, Alistair Penman, Paul Mitchell-Davidson, Amy Quate, Debussy, Demersseman; Alistair Penman, Jonathan Pease; Meadowbank Music

Pedro Ituralde, Richard Rodney Bennett, Robert Planel, Andy Scott, Alastair Penman, Paul Mitchell-Davidson, Amy Quate, Debussy, Demersseman; Alastair Penman, Jonathan Pease; Meadowbank Music

For his first disc on his new label, saxophonist Alastair Penman joins pianist Jonathan Pease for an engaging selection of 20th century and more recent favourites from the duo's recitals

Saxophonist Alastair Penman's third album is his first on his new label, Meadowbank Music. The album, Soar, with pianist Jonathan Pease features a selection of the duo's favourite repertoire. Whilst the disc's name might come from Penman's Soar which is on the disc, the epithet also refers to all the music on the disc where a selections of works by 20th century composers Pedro Ituralde, Richard Rodney Bennett, and Robert Planel, along with new pieces by contemporary composers, Andy Scott, Alastair Penman, Paul Mitchell-Davidson, and Amy Quate, a recent arrangement of Debussy and a 19th-century fantasy on Carnival of Venice, all feature music where the saxophone soars over the piano.

We begin with Pequena Czarda by the Spanish saxophonist and composer Pedro Ituralde, a piece that Penman has played since he was at school. A virtuoso showpiece, we begin with a rhapsodic slow introduction before the saxophone gets put through its paces, including rhapsodic moments, a cadence and plenty of fast passage-work. All great fun, beautifully played.

Richard Rodney Bennett's Four Country Dances were written in 2000 for soprano saxophone or oboe and piano, and dedicated John Harle and Nicholas Daniels. In them Bennett takes four tunes from Playford's Dancing Master, 'A new dance', 'Lady Day', 'The Mulberry Garden', 'Nobody's Jig' and makes them his own. In each, Bennett allows the saxophone to present the melody with Bennett's own sympathetic, but highly idiomatic piano accompaniment before both instruments take the original as a starting point. These are delightful and immensely sympathetic pieces.

Andy Scott, with whom Penman studied, is a British saxophonist and composer who is equally at home in classical music or jazz. We hear two of his pieces, Three Letter Word, written in 2009 for saxophonist Huw Wiggin, and And everything is still, written in 2008 and originally for flute. Three Letter Word begins with a terrific, rhapsodic introduction before a main section that gets down and dirty with a very dancey rhythm and tune. And everything is still is more quiet and bluesy, a quietly melancholy saxophone over a throbbing piano.

Prelude et Saltarelle by French composer Robert Planel follows. Contrary to what you might expect, the work consists of a long, rather mesmerising prelude, quite conservative in style but with intriguing hints of jazz, and then a fast, vivid and short Saltarelle this is a complete delight. 

Penman describes Soar as the first serious composition that he wrote for saxophone and piano, and it tells the story of an injured eagle, kept in captivity until it is healed and then released back into the wild.A slow introduction leads to the faster section with the saxophone's lyrical phrases of the rhythmic repetition of the piano, the whole having a lovely energy and sense of impulse.

Paul Mitchell-Davison is another composer whose music moves between jazz and contemporary classical, his Lullaby was originally written for tenor saxophone and harp in 1996 and premiered by Andy Scott and Lauren Scott, and was written to celebrate the birth of their son. It is quiet and gentle piece. 

Jenni Watson first performed her arrangement of Debussy's Dr Gradus ad Parnassum (from Children's Corner) at the World Saxophone Congress in Zagreb in 2018. The result is a delightfully virtuosic piece that virtually reinvents Debussy for the saxophone. The World Saxophone Congress crops up again in the next piece, as American composer Amy Quate wrote Light of Sothis for the seventh congress in 1982. Sothis, now called Sirius, is the star aspect of the goddess Isis, whose light confines the cycles of nature which bring beauty, prosperity and life. It is believed that Sothis blesses with sacred illumination and it is this which Quate depicts in Light of Sothis. It is in three movements, the quietly lyrical Grace, the vividly impulsive Passion, and the flowing Faith which seems to evaporate into thin air.

Jules Demersseman was a virtuoso flute player and composer, but also a friend of Adolphe Sax and his Fantasy on Carnival of Venice was written for one of Sax's pupils. We end with the slightly corny but wonderfully over-the-top virtuoso drama we might expect from such a work. Penman and Pease relish the opportunities both for drama and for showing off.

The result is an engaging and eclectic selection of pieces that makes a lovely disc to dip into.

Pedro Ituralde (1929-2020) - Pequena Czarda
Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012) - Four Country Dances
Andy Scott (born 1966) - Three Letter Word
Andy Scott - And Everything is Still
Robert Planel (1908-1994) - Prelude et Saltarelle
Alistair Penman (born 1988)
Paul Mitchell-Davidson (born 1946)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918), arr. Jenni Watson (born 1985) - Dr Gradus ad Parnassum
Amy Quate (born 1953) - Light of Sothis
Jules Demersseman (1833-1866), arr. Fred Hemke (1935-2019) - Fantasy on Carnival of Venice
Alastair Penman (alto and soprano saxophones)
Jonathan Pease (piano)
Recorded on 1 June and 2 September 2022 at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I'd be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog

  • Any performance of Verdi's Don Carlo is an event: Verdi's large-scale drama returns to Covent Garden with Lise Davidsen and Brian Jagde - opera review
  • An engaging diversity & fierce intelligence: the piano music of Bernard Hughes played by Matthew Mills - record review
  • Imagination and seduction: Huw Wiggin in Rhapsody, music Debussy, Joseph Phibbs, Iain Farrington, Coates, Jennifer Watson, and Liszt - record review
  • Heard in her own rightan important new disc explores Fanny Hensel's songs, focusing on the unknown and unrecorded - record review
  • The Elixir of LoveWild Arts brings Guido Martin-Brandis' enjoyably characterful production of Donizetti's opera to the Thaxted Festival - opera review
  • Mendelssohn, Schumann and a Noah Max premiere: Emma Abbate & the Tippett Quartet at the Thaxted Festival - concert review
  • Delving into her Greek background: Lisa Archontidi-Tsaldaraki's debut recital places 20th-century Greek composers alongside Bartok, Szymanowski and Ravel - interview
  • I have rarely heard Bach's Mass in B minor performed with such consistency of style, integrity and sheer musicality: Vox Luminis at Wigmore Hall - concert review
  • Music of such engaging variety and imagination: Richard Boothby's Music to hear... exploring Alfonso Ferrabosco's 1609 book of music for solo lyra viol - record review
  • A refreshing sense of lightness: Chichester Cathedral Choir & the Rose Consort of Viols in sacred music by Chichester Cathedral's 17th-century organist, Thomas Weelkes - record review
  • An engaging & ultimately touching evening: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at the Grange Festival - opera review
  • Home

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month