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CONTRASTS

Fernande Decruck (1896–1954)

Sonata for alto saxophone and piano

1 I. Trés Modéré, Expressif

2 II. Andante

3 III. Fileuse

4 IV. Nocturne et Final

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)

5 Pavane pour une infante défunte (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”)

(Transcription for alto saxophone and piano)

Takashi Yoshimatsu (b.1953)

“Fuzzy Bird Sonata” for alto saxophone and piano

6 I. “Run Bird”

7 II. “Sing Bird”

8 III. “Fly Bird”

Sergey Rachmaninov (1873–1943)

9 Vocalise (transcription for alto saxophone and piano)

Edison Denisov (1929–1996)

Sonata for alto saxophone and Piano (Alphonse Leduc)

10 I. Allegro

11 II. Lento

12 III. Allegro Moderato

Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)

Sonata for oboe and piano

(transcription for soprano saxophone and piano)

13 I. Elégie

14 II. Scherzo

15 III. Déploration

The saxophone is an instrument with a strong individuality and a wide range of expressive potential; however, its development in Russia has not been easy. It has endured a long thorny path towards recognition as a true classical solo instrument. The classical saxophone tradition in Russia is only about 40 years old and is closely connected to the founder of the Russian school, Professor Margarita Shaposhnikova.

A splendid clarinetist, M. Shaposhnikova (born in 1940) became interested in the classical saxophone and mastered the technique of performing the saxophone on her own, adopting a French style of playing. She says: “Saxophone attracted me because it has more potential than the clarinet. I practiced it on my own. I read translated books, listened to the records of French saxophonists and played 9 hours every day. I can intuitively hear the intrinsic ability of the saxophone to merge with violins and percussion instruments, powerful brass and gentle woodwind instruments. It is like a chameleon that can change the color of its voice.”

Shaposhinkova’s active touring contributed to the popularization of the classical saxophone in the USSR. She inspired many Soviet composers to create works for saxophone that enriched the ever growing, world-wide concert repertoire for the instrument.

Having overcome many hardships in the 1970’s, Shaposhnikova opened the first class of saxophone at the Russian Gnesins’ Academy of Music in Moscow and since that time she has selflessly devoted herself to pedagogical activity. Within a few years she created her own unique style of performance that merges both the traditions of French classical saxophonists and the richest traditions of Russian performance art.

This synthesis of Russian and French playing styles recently has resulted in numerous successes for the Russian saxophone school at leading international music competitions. The most significant achievement of the present day is the brilliant victory of Margarita Shaposhnikova’s graduate, Sergey Kolesov, at the 4th International Adolphe Sax Competition in Dinant, Belgium, 2006, the world’s most prestigious saxophone competition. This competition is held only once every four years and is the most demanding test of performers in the world of classical saxophone competitions.

Adopting his teacher’s principles and the traditions of Russian musical art Sergey Kolesov has discovered and established his own performing style. This CD disk “Contrasts” includes four diverse sonatas for saxophone and piano and shows the different sides of this performer’s individuality.

 

Four sonatas

 

Fernande Decruck (1896–1954) – Professor of the Paris Conservatoire. The “Sonata” written in the mid-20th century is saturated with Schuman’s mysterious and mystic atmosphere, pentatonic harmonies à la Ravel and Debussy. The swift third part “Spinner” has much in common with Schumann’s “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel” and Saint-Saëns’ “Omphala’s Spinning Wheel.”

Takashi Yoshimatsu (born in 1953) is a modern Japanese composer who prefers to work in classical Western music genres in spite of the prevalence of avant-garde tendencies in modern Japanese music. Bright melodic patterns and eclecticism are typical of his musical style. In his neo-romantic sonata “Fuzzy Bird” the traditional Japanese cultural symbol of a bird is created by the mutual penetration of classical harmonies, indigenous Japanese instrumental timbres, improvisations, and jazz intonations.

 

Edison Denisov (1929–1996) is a classic of the Soviet avant-garde. The style of “Sonata for saxophone and piano,” composed in the twelve-tone serial technique, is surprisingly close to the elements of jazz with jagged rhythms, shifting meters, melodic patterns resembling free jazz improvisations, strained between a strict ostinanto of the bass rhythm in the piano part and quasi improvised responses in the saxophone melody. Denisov is one of the first composers to introduce multiphonics and quarter tones into the classical saxophone repertoire.

Francis Poulenc (1899–1963) is one of the most charming French composers of the 20th century, a member of Les Six. “Sonata,” Sergey Prokofiev in memoriam, originally for oboe and piano, is Poulenc’s last work. It is notable for its restrained depth, laconic character, and richness of imagination. The transcription for soprano saxophone allows for the introduction of an even more tangible expressiveness, drama, and a novel neo-romantic flair to this work.

The transcriptions for saxophone and piano of Sergey Rachmaninov’s “Vocalise” and Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess)” vividly demonstrate the lyric richness of the saxophone sound and its resemblance to the human voice. The saxophone makes these works of the past, to which we have grown so accustomed, ring in a new way, giving these classics a novel coloring and demonstrating previously unimagined performance possibilities.