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A performance full of energy

Kendal Midday Concert Club, Clive Walkley

It is not often that we get a chance to hear a live performance by a saxophone quartet. For some at the club’s midday concert on Wednesday March 23 this may have been their introduction to the sound world of four reed instruments in an ensemble setting. The combination of four saxophones of different sizes playing together certainly makes a distinctive sound, but what this recital revealed was how versatile the instrument can be when played by fine professional artists of the calibre of the Ferio Saxophone Quartet.

A selection of music from Handel’s well-known Water Music opened the programme, music originally written to be played outdoors by wind instruments. It worked so well on these four instruments – unknown, of course, in Handel’s day.

The performance set the standard for what was to come: the opening Hornpipe got off to a brisk start in a performance full of energy with fine articulation and rhythmic precision; the gentle Minuet which followed was beautifully phrased and in the closing Bourrée the articulation was again superb.

Not surprisingly, enthusiastic applause greeted the four players; Handel would have probably responded in the same way given the high standard of the playing.

Later in the programme pianist, Timothy End, joined the four saxophonists in works by Iain Farrington, Shostakovich and Pedro Iturralde Ochoa. It is good to know that modern works are being written or arranged for an ensemble of saxophones and Iain Farrington’s Animal Parade – written in 2007 as a piano piece – worked brilliantly in his own arrangement for this ensemble. In this affectionate caricature of wildlife, described by the composer as ‘a wild and wacky depiction of ten familiar animals, from the tallest to the fastest’, making their entrance and exit were four animals: Penguins, Barrel Organ Monkey, Alleycats and Blue Whale.

This was such a fun piece full of interesting tone colours and intricate rhythms which all five players brought off brilliantly.

The same may be said of the arrangement of seven ‘tongue in cheek’ short pieces by Shostakovich, cleverly put together in a Jazz Suite, again arranged by Iain Farrington.

The concert closed with an original work, Iturralde Ochoa’s Memorias, three atmospheric movements evoking night life in three famous southern cities, Lisbon, Casablanca and Algiers. Jazz rhythms and jazz harmonies invaded this work which brought the recital to a memorable close.

In a world so full of gloom, what a joy it was to hear such fine playing of music intended to entertain and cheer.

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