The saxophone and organ are wind instruments that rarely occupy the same space at the same time. It is our contention that this seemingly incongruous combination is actually quite perfect. These instruments are distinctive, and yet there are moments when their sounds are virtually one and the same.
The Partita Breve by Ton Vehiel was written for the 1992 World Saxophone Congress. The movements are uncomplicated, with fanfare, dance, and vocal melody presented in a perfectly balanced structure. The opening flourish of the Prelude, for example, returns as the concluding gesture of the Gigue. The light-hearted second-movement Menuett frames a lyrical Trio. A vocal recitative, traded back and forth in the third movement, gives way to a dramatic mid-section which quickly tapers back into a whispering recitative. The Gigue exudes pure joy and perpetual motion.
Guy de Lioncourt’s Kyrie setting is based on a tenth-century liturgical chant melody here played by the saxophone. This understated arrangement respectfully incorporates the possibilities of modern harmony along with the speech-like rhythmic contours of ancient chant.
Augusta Read Thomas’s Angel Tears and Earth Prayers, written in 2006, were recorded immediately after the November 2015 Paris attacks. Thomas’s jagged motifs, harsh clusters, wailing phrases, and brief moments of peace gave poignant expression to our feelings of horror, helplessness, and longing for a wee glimmer of hope that morning. There is a great deal of motivic agreement between the instruments but also an astonishing variety of tone colour and musical gestures. How apt that the Angel’s Tears and the Earth’s Prayers present complete cycles of emotion so similar and yet so distinct.
Sonate I, written by Canadian composer Denis Bédard, was the catalyst for forming our saxophone-organ duo. Bédard’s music is tonal, melodic and balanced. His love for Baroque music and jazz is evident in the energetic melodic and harmonic sequences and the great variety of chromatic alterations.
Un Mi Gud et Lite Rom (Grant me God a little room) and Hus Gud Er Idel Glede (In God is eternal joy) are Norwegian folk tune arrangements by Dr. Frederick Hemke. With these miniatures, Hemke’s intention was to prompt the contemplative state achieved when life’s many inherent inconsistencies are reconciled. Hemke, an internationally recognized saxophonist, was a long-time faculty member of Northwestern University. His list of illustrious students includes Allen Harrington.
The Chanson à bercer by Eugène Bozza is the only work on this recording not written specifically for saxophone and organ. We often choose this gentle lullaby as an encore.
The title track, Vanishing Point, was written for us by Canadian composer Leonard Enns. Enns writes: While much music proceeds to an energetic and strong ending, I have chosen to go the other direction in this work. Vanishing Point, despite its three distinct movements, is essentially one long and single journey from a beginning of intense activity to a final arrival in which everything dissolves into a single tranquil moment. Along the way there are certainly episodes of quiet, then of renewed activity, of harmonic density, then transparency, but the overall movement is from near-frenzy to final calm. This concluding point is the centre both of rest and potential; though it is obviously an ending, it is equally a possible starting point. The idea is that everything finally has its home in ONE, and ONE is also the source of everything. The term vanishing point refers not to a disappearing point, but rather the point where distinctions and details have lost their significance, a point where struggle and celebration are remembered but no longer relevant. At the vanishing point, perhaps, they are one and the same.
– Lottie Enns-Braun
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Ravello Records is the contemporary classical label imprint of audio production house PARMA Recordings. Dedicated to highlighting forward thinking composers and musicians from around the world, the New England-based label's eclectic catalog offers listeners a cross-section of today's up-and-coming innovators in orchestral, chamber, and experimental music.
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