LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Glass: Violin Concerto (arr. saxophone); Tavener: The Protecting Veil – first movement (arr. saxophone); Nyman: Where the Bee Dances
PERFORMER: Amy Dickson (saxophone); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Mikel Toms
CATALOGUE NO: 88697376792
Transcriptions have a venerable and respectable history: from Bach downwards, many composers readily adapted their own and others’ works for different instruments, with musically successful results. Nevertheless, since (one assumes and hopes) composers think carefully about the peculiar characteristics of the instruments they score for, a change of instrumentation will inevitably affect the character of the music.
The magic of Taverner’s Protecting Veil is so tied in with the sound of the cello that this transcription for saxophone will seem odd. Amy Dickson plays superbly, with great feeling and a less sterile tone than you expect from classical saxophonists, but her instrument’s timbre never matches the warmth of the cello.
Perhaps because the music of Glass and Nyman has frequently included strong roles for saxophones, its character seems more congenial to these interpretations. Although written for violin, Glass’s Concerto sounds very comfortable in the saxophone version.
Of course, the texture and attack differs (this is more stately than some performances of the concerto I have heard, yet it also sounds more staccato, and high notes are more shrill than on the violin) and the colour balance of the orchestration is affected, just as blue looks different juxtaposed with red than with yellow, but the essence of the argument and interaction between soloist and ensemble is intact. Dickson plays both this and Nyman’s Bee piece with verve and a keen edge. Barry Witherden