Various. 2018. (speak to me) New Music, New Politics. Adam Swayne. Compact Disc. Coviello Classics COV 91818.
Baroque music arranged for saxophone quartet? Well this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who have heard the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, or member Huw Wiggin’s solo performances at the Brighton Festival in recent years, will know that they are highly talented and communicative performers, and with this second disc for the quartet, they make a convincing case for their arrangements of Purcell, Bach, Handel, Corelli, as well as an earlier interloper, with Byrd’s Pavan and Gigue. The majority of the arrangements were made by Iain Farrington (b.1977) especially for the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, and have therefore been recorded here for the first time. A lot of the repertoire will be very familiar – movements from Handel’s Water Music, Preludes and Fugues and a Brandenburg Concerto from Bach, and Purcell’s Rondeau (used by Britten in his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra). In a way, perhaps because some of these ‘tunes’ are so familiar, it is actually refreshing to hear them presented in such a different way – this applies especially to Bach’s Air (somewhat destroyed for those of us of a certain age by a cigar advert). Inevitably, the saxophones’ mellow tones tends to create a homogenously smooth texture, but here particularly, Wiggins’ lyricism on the top melodic line is highly seductive. They give a little more edge to point their lines in the fugues of two arrangements of Preludes and Fugues from Bach’s Das wohltemperierte Klavier, although again, there is an overall blended texture that tends to obscure the angular nature of Bach’s fugue melodies, particularly in the lower instruments. Their Badinerie from Bach’s Suite No. 2 is full of energy and joy, and here their rhythmic incision is refreshing. For Sheep may safely graze (from Bach’s Cantata BWV208), we return to smooth, lyrical textures, but here the contrast between the tenor line and the lilting soprano and alto duet on top is enchanting. Their Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 fizzes along nicely, and the closing Allegro has an exhilarating bounce. Handel’s Sarabande and three movements from his ‘Water Music’ follow. The Sarabande is suitably mournful and stately, whilst the Hornpipe and Bourée are brassy and bright, and the aforementioned Pavan and Gigue from Byrd that follows is sensitively light. The Adagio from Corelli’s Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 8 is sandwiched between another Bach Fugue, and Bach’s Italian Concerto to close the disc. The Corelli again demonstrates the players’ abilities to make lines sing, with some beautifully sustained tone, contrasting well with the brief articulated central Adagio. The Italian Concerto to finish once again has energy and a lightness of touch, and the tenor line in the central Andante is mellow and lyrical, leading to a joyous Presto. Whilst there is perhaps not as much stylistic variety on offer here as on their first disc, I was nevertheless won over by their warmth of sound, ability to communicate, and flawless ensemble throughout.
Various. 2018. Revive - Baroque arrangements for Saxophone Quartet. Ferio Saxophone Quartet. Compact Disc. Chandos Records CHAN 10999.