Saxophone Ballades

0 of 5 stars

Ballade for alto saxophone and orchestra
Ballade for saxophone and orchestra
Pièce en forme de habanera [arr. Hoérée for saxophone and chamber orchestra]
Tango Suite [adap. Kerkezos for saxophone and orchestra]
Ballade (Lullaby) for saxophone and strings
Czárdás for saxophone and orchestra

Theodore Kerkezos (saxophone)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Roberto Minczuk

Recorded November 2003 in Henry Wood Hall, London

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: July 2004
CD No: NAXOS 8.557454
Duration: 66 minutes

This is the second CD that Theodore Kerkezos has made for Naxos – and, like the first, it is excellent. The earlier release [8.557063], with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins, includes pieces by Debussy, Milhaud and Villa-Lobos, as well as Glazunov’s lovely Concerto. Now with another London-based orchestra, Kerkezos essays a similar collection of attractive music, which begins with Henri Tomasi’s entertaining Ballade, enjoyably languorous, spirited and witty.

Frank Martin’s Ballade is better known, and justifiably so, for it is a great work, one that begins in darkness with plaintive expression and grows with organic certainty through intense declamation (the saxophone’s highest register is exploited meaningfully) to faster music that is, similarly, not without anguish. Written in 1938, it is not difficult to think that the music is a reflection of world tension; the musing third section is expressionally burdened, the cadenza wails, and the final ‘dance’ section continues Martin’s oblique but fascinating writing to its rapid-fire conclusion.

Whether, in terms of the CD’s layout, it was such a good idea to put these two 15-minute pieces adjacent is a moot point, but they are certainly offer considerable contrast to one another.

The Ravel arrangement is well managed, Kerkezos shaping his ‘floating’ line with sultry tone and enigmatic promise. The Piazzolla is the longest work (22 minutes) and is comprised of seven segued movements. Although this listener never caught the tango craze, and usually finds that Piazzolla has his limitations, this Tango Suite (in Kerkezos’s adaptation) is readily attractive in its enjoyable mix of scintillating movements and those more soulful, not least the dance-hall smooch of ‘Oblivión’.

Music from Greek and Spanish composers to end. Dimitris Dragatakis’s Ballade is short and sweet, tenderly expressive (though the final note, with electronic click, fades a little too soon), and the Czárdás of Pedro Iturralde (orchestrated by his bother Javier) is a terrific piece and could have been written by a Hungarian native! Divided into the traditional lassu and friss sections, Kerkezos is the equal of the former’s grand gesture and the latter’s dazzling pyrotechnics.

Throughout this CD Theodore Kerkezos impresses not only with his virtuosity but also his versatility. He commands a wide range of colour and dynamic, and he enters into various styles and moods with commitment, certainty and a vibrant personality. The LPO and Roberto Minczuk are entirely supportive and co-operative.

A printing error eradicates mention of the recording location – but the booklet picture is a dead give-away. I’m pleased to report that the vivid, focussed sound is entirely true to Henry Wood Hall’s excellent acoustic.

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