Saxophone sorbet? Yes, please!

On March 7th, to a packed house, at the University Capitol Centre Recital Hall, Dr. Kenneth Tse presented a recital that featured the soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones. He was accompanied by Jason Sifford, Lin-Yu Wang, and Rebecca Tse. While this blog is primarily reviewing performances of 20th and 21st century music, this recital began with Tomaso Albinoni’s 1722 Concerto No. 2 in D minor, op. 9. Originally written for oboe, Dr. Tse performed this work on soprano saxophone. After a piano introduction, the saxophonist’s beautiful tone and expressive vibrato captured the audience and held them spellbound until the very last note.  With precise technique and style, this tonal composition was played with perfection. Dr. Tse even commented afterwards to the audience, “I wish it had been written for saxophone!”

Following this tonal work, we traveled to the present era. Michael Eckert’s 2009 composition, Blue Arc for Alto Saxophone and Piano was composed with a more modern, post-tonal approach. This work was dedicated to Dr. Tse, and entails a dialogue between the saxophone and piano. The melodic material in the saxophone builds to a rhythmic climax in the piano before the return of the previous material. With the composer seated in the audience, this work was received extremely well.

On a tonally lighter note, the next composition performed was Raymond Gallois-Montbrun’s Six Pieces Musicales d’Etude. This work was written in 1954 for saxophonist, Marcel Mule, professor of saxophone at the Paris Conservatory. Of all of the movements, the audience seemed to enjoy the second, Intermezzo, and the fourth, Lied, the best. The second movement sounded as if tiny fairies were dancing all around the stage, and there was even laughter in the audience when the movement was complete. The fourth movement allowed the beauty of the saxophone’s voice to sing and resonate throughout the recital hall. It was magnificent.

To conclude the first half of the program, Dr. Tse was joined on stage by his daughter, Rebecca Tse, who accompanied him on piano. Richard Dudas’ Fantasia on Lyun Joon Kim’s Elegy which was written in 2009, spotlights the elegance of the saxophone’s altissimo register. According to Dr. Tse, he first heard this composition on You Tube for orchestra accompaniment, and asked Dudas to write a reduction for piano. Tonight was the American Premiere of this wonderful melodic work.

After a brief intermission, the recital continued with David DeBoor Canfield’s 2011 Sonata for Tenor Saxophone and Piano. This work was dedicated to Dr. Tse, and is an extremely technically demanding and virtuosic piece. It also included some modern compositional techniques and strumming and plucking on the piano. Written in the third movement is a direction to the saxophonist to walk to the piano and play into it to conclude the movement. The fourth movement incorporated some multiphonics on the saxophone, a modern technique that hadn’t yet been produced on this recital, and caught some of the audience off guard!

The evening’s final piece was Joseph Joachim Raff’s Cavatina, op. 85, No. 3 in which Dr. Tse was once again accompanied by his daughter. This 1859 composition was a delightful conclusion to an incredible recital. Dr. Tse compared this work to a sorbet in order to cleanse the palate, and it indeed left the audience in high spirits and wanting more!

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