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Grigory Kalinkovich (b.1917)

1. Concerto-Cappriccio for alto saxophone and piano

Aram Khachaturian (1903 – 1978)

2. Nocturne from “Masquerade”

(Transcription for alto saxophone and piano by S.Kolesov)

3. “Sabre Dance” From the ballet “Gayane”

Reinhold Gliér (1875 – 1956)

4. Romance (transcription for alto saxophone and piano)

Alfred Schnittke (1934 – 1998)

Suite in Old Style (transcription for soprano saxophone and piano)

5. I Pastorale

6. II Ballet

7. III Minuet

8. IV Fugue

9. V Pantomime

Efrem Podgaits (b. 1949)

10. “Ave Maria” for alto saxophone and piano

Arvo Pärt (b.1935)

11. “Spiegel I Spiegel” (transcription for alto saxophone and piano)

The title of this CD Ritorno, inspired by the Italian word for return, contains a wide range of implied meanings, all of which formed the basis for the selection of compositions presented on this disk. The selection of compositions represents a kind of arch of musical eras whereby in each piece there is a reliance on earlier musical material, rethought in varying degrees by modern-day composers or arrangers. The works presented here in Ritorno were all created during the second half of the 20th century. During this period one of the distinctive stylistic traits was a dialogue with the music repertoire of the past, incorporating earlier sonorities, allusions, and even full quotations.


As an example, Grigory Kalinkovich’s Capriccio on a Theme by Paganini, follows a tradition established by Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninov, and Witold Lutosławski, by making use of Niccolò Paganini's Caprice, No. 24 in A minor. The transformation of its main theme has developed it into an icon of virtuosic variations. In this version the combination of Soviet retro style harmony and the timbre of the saxophone produce some unexpected results.

Margarita Shapohinkova’s arrangement of Aram Katchaturian’s well-known Sabre Dance, from the ballet Gayane, and his Nocturne, from Masquerade, elicits a new sound. The saxophone arrangement adds a subtle Armenian color to the lyrical Nocturne, owing to the saxophone’s ability to imitate the color of the Armenian duduk. The bright sound effects in Sabre Dance, that rival a sonorous orchestral timbre, and forces a fresh new look at the technical possibilities of the saxophone.

Even the title of Alfred Schnitke’s Suite in Old Style calls us back to another time era and its particular world view, which found an intense following, especially during the second half of the 20th century. It inspired such works as Variations on the theme of Handel’s Passacaglia and Variations on the theme of Haydn by Edison Denisov, Come In by Vladimir Martynov, and Toccatina-Collage by Rodion Schedrin. Apparently, the reason for such a significant demand for an “ancient style” in contemporary music is the endeavor to “decipher” the secret of lost harmony, the harmony which is so primordial and untouched, that even its comparison with the culture of the 20th century is perceived as a dramatic conflict of a modern reality and a “Golden Age”, which has gone, never to return.

By giving the title Ave Maria to this work, the composer not only suggests that the basis of a prayerful text is associated with the composition, but also expects that fact to be understood through all the sections of the piece. A tender, gentle, and prayerful atmosphere are the characteristic features of all the compositions based on the Ave Maria; the efforts of a spiritual ascent…


The harmony and color of this spiritual atmosphere have always been crystalline and transparent. At the beginning of the 21st century Efrem Podgaits continued this compositional style by replacing the traditional sonority of clear triads with a so-called harmonic field of subdued tonal intensity. All this together, with the prevailing pulsation and variable meter, makes the music renounce its earthly attraction and soar up to the heavens.

In many ways, Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt is the central composition of this CD. With respect to a dialogue between time periods, this work takes us back to the very origins of the tonal system. The style of composition is based on the simple sounds found in a sequence of triads based on the tones of a diatonic scale. Pärt calls this compositional style tintinnambuli (Latin for the word “bells”) and characterizes it as “the escape to voluntary paucity.” The composer uses 7 harmonic consonances, which form the only possible reality to create a magic circle of fascinating simplicity, free from anything unnecessary.


The second meaning of the title Ritorno is that there is a tendency for this music to “return” to a more and more remote musical era, which eventually dissolves into the archaism of simple consonances. On the way to understanding this “return” we should give consideration to the origin of the word “return” – the return to the sensation of time as a mysterious and perpetual essence.

Starting in the 17th century, Classical art, including music, was based on the concept of a world closely connected with the classical physics of Sir Isaac Newton. Everything was strictly systematized and conformed to a certain hierarchy in this worldview paradigm. The individual was the center of the Universe, the main subject of art, its spiritual world, and its struggle of opposites, good and evil.

The concept of musical time in this culture is very directional; it develops in the struggle of opposites and in the conflict of musical ideas. It tends to climax at a high point of tension and instability in order to be “resolved” afterwards. The dynamic process of music itself has the contrast of curve with sharp peaks and deep declines. The material in this concept of musical time develops in a manner that audiences have come to expect. However, the appearance of new theories of understanding led to new modes of perception.

The 20th century was marked by a transition to non-classical physics (Einstein’s Theory of Relativity) and other ideas of world view. The discoveries of micro- and macro-infinity, the new principles involved with the interaction of space and time led to a new understanding in the interpretation of time. It was reflected in the art of music, causing the conscious negation of the previous Classical model of musical time. New music, with its continually expanding presence, is characterized by self-sufficiency in the actual moment of feeling and is not directed to the future. The borders of temporal periods are being washed away. Continuous “present time” has discovered the features of space that coincide with infinity.

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