ALBUM TITLE: Island Songs
WORKS: Sculthorpe – Island Songs, Dean – The Siduri Dances, Edwards – Full Moon Dances
PERFORMER: Amy Dickson (saxophone); Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Benjamin Northey; Miguel Harth-Bedoya
CATALOGUE NO: 88875169062
The Australian saxophonist Amy Dickson is the star of this disc, originally recorded and issued in 2015 by ABC Classics and now reissued on Sony for international release, of 21st-century pieces by three of her compatriots. The late Peter Sculthorpe’s Island Songs of 2012, for soprano saxophone, strings and percussion, features his familiar and appealing mixture of drones, enhanced by the earthy didjeridu, outbreaks of regular rhythms, shifting string textures, and, over all these, winding, plaintive melodies of Aboriginal inspiration. Brett Dean’s The Siduri Dances, adapted for soprano saxophone from a 2007 piece for flute and strings, was inspired by an episode in the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh in which Gilgamesh, on his quest for immortality, meets the sea goddess Siduri and is advised by her to ‘dance and be merry, feast and rejoice’. The soloist leads the dance with Stravinskyan rhythmic verve and joyous virtuosity, before a reflective coda.
Ross Edwards’s Full Moon Dances for alto saxophone and orchestra of 2012 (recorded live under Miguel Harth-Bedoya) is a more substantial work, inspired by the moon goddesses of different cultures and a corresponding range of musical influences. Atmospheric nocturnal ceremonies alternate with frenetic ritual dances in a dramatic sequence which is also a brilliant showpiece for the soloist. In the concert hall the piece has a theatrical element of costume and lighting. But the thrilling performance and vivid recording more than make up for its absence.