Saxophone feast from the New Zealand School of Music

New Zealand School of Music Saxophone Ensembles
Artistic Director: Debbie Rawson

J. S. Bach Aria: Erbarme dich, Mein Gott for Saxophone Sextet (Arr. R. A. Moulds)
Soloists: Reuben Chin, Katherine Maciaszec
Nigel Woods Schwarzer Tanzer for Saxophone Quintet
Karen Street Tango for Saxophone Quintet
T. Albinoni Concerto in D Minor for Soprano Saxophone: Grave-Allegro-Adagio-Allegro.(Arr. D. Rawson)
Soloist:  Reuben ChinJean Rivier Grave and Presto for Saxophone Quartet (1966)

W. A. Mozart Rondo Alla Turca for Saxophone Sextet (arr. M. Mijan)

Sopranos: Reuben Chin, Debbie Rawson
Alto: Kim Hunter
Tenors: Katherine Maciaszec, Nick Walshe
Baritone: Graham Hanify

Old St.Paul’s lunchtime series, Wellington

Tuesday 30th September 2014

The Bach aria which opened this concert must be one of the most sublime vocal duos ever written, and it has been sung with breathtaking beauty by all the great oratorio artists. Hence it has to be a very demanding challenge to achieve a successful transcription for saxophones. The power of the original is such that I found it impossible to banish that version from my mind, and hear the saxophone transcription entirely on its own merits. However, it was very adequately played by both soloists and others, and Reuben Chin’s soprano sax tone was smooth and pleasant, never hinting at the sharp edge that is commonly heard in pop sax playing. But the music did seem somewhat hurried to do justice to the grace and beauty of its melodic lines. I wondered if Reuben had listened to some of the great vocal renditions, shaped as they are by periods of piano relief, with each phrase delineated by those momentary breaths, both physical and musical, that allow each phrase to be absorbed and confirmed by mind and spirit.

The Nigel Woods number, translating as “Black Dancer”, recalled the idioms of Kurt Weil and the Berlin nightclub scene of the 1970’s. The schmaltzy tunes were passed between the various instruments, with Graham Hanify’s baritone sax melodies being particularly throaty and seductive. The group obviously relished the music, and it offered a completely different perspective from the previous work on the possibilities for sax ensemble writing.

Karen Street’s Tango also sat very comfortably for the quintet, displaying the benefit of her own wide professional experience as a sax player. The score captured very successfully the laid back, louche mood of the tango, but she cleverly interrupted this with a brief central, highly animated section before lapsing back into slow seduction. Again the players drew the listeners into their obvious enjoyment of the music.

The Albinoni Concerto was a transcription Debbie Rawson did in 1979 after she heard overseas a riveting trumpet solo performance. Her saxophone version proved remarkably effective, with Reubin Chin giving a very polished delivery, marked by sensitive slow movements. The solo part sometimes needed more “space” to be heard through the supporting ensemble in the first allegro, but the balance in the final allegro was good.

Jean Rivier is a noted French composer whose contributions to the classical saxophone repertoire are much prized by players. The harmonic idioms in this work are very interesting, and the opening Grave was given due elegance and style by the players. The Presto makes considerable technical demands, with some very tricky rhythms, challenging unison sections and high speed passagework, all of which were pulled off with exemplary skill.

The transcription of Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca took off at an almost hectic gallop, possibly fuelled by exam nerves which tend to ramp up the tempo! (This concert was being assessed as part of university course requirements). Much to the players credit, there was barely a concession to snatching a breath, and most of the notes made it! It was a spirited end to an excellent, entertaining concert, offering a window into a repertoire that I imagine few regions of the country have the opportunity to enjoy. Wellington listeners clearly appreciate this, as there was an excellent turnout on a day when many might have been tempted to soak up the wonderful spring sunshine  outside.

Debbie Rawson is once again to be congratulated on the way she is nurturing and expanding young talent in this tertiary course, not to mention all her numerous other endeavours in the woodwind and band worlds.




Old St.Paul’s lunchtime series, Wellington

Tuesday 30th September 2014

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