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Huw Wiggin and James Sherlock's entertaining platform manner, sparring off each other verbally as well as musically

Derby Telegraph

It’s taken a long time for the classical world to fully embrace the saxophone. Even now the repertoire relies on a disproportionate number of transcriptions – not necessarily a bad thing, but symptomatic of a gap that is still closing.

The one original saxophone piece in the recital by Huw Wiggin and pianist James Sherlock was the opening item, Pedro Iturralde’s Pequeña czarda. The players’ full command of its changing moods was typical of the evening as a whole. Wiggin switched from alto to soprano instrument for two movements from Astor Piazzolla’s  Histoire du tango, exploring an impressive dynamic range, and producing a delectable cor anglais-like tone at the bottom of the instrument’s compass.

Baroque music can work surprisingly well on the saxophone. In a transcription of the D minor Oboe Concerto by Alessandro Marcello (still sometimes mis-attributed to his brother, Bendetto) there was magical stillness in the second movement and some nimble playing in the third. In the G minor Flute Sonata, BWV 1020, attributed to JS Bach but now generally thought to be by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, and drive in the outer movements were balanced by poise and elegance in the middle one.

I was a bit apprehensive as to how Franck’s Violin Sonata would survive transcription for alto sax, but it came out of it rather well. Wiggin and Sherlock expertly balanced the work’s latent passion with the poise of both the opening and the canonic finale.

Huw Wiggin took a break in each half, leaving James Sherlock centre-stage. Liszt’s transcription of ‘Widmung’, the openingnumber of Schumann’s song-cycle Myrthen, was given a soulfulperformance. Introducing Poulenc’s Mélancholie in thesecond half, Sherlock said that in spite of the title it was one ofthe happiest pieces he knew. His playing, though, told a different story, clearly the true one. If Poulenc had hit upon Elgar’s phrase’smiling with a sigh’ this is a piece he would surely have applied it to.

The evening’s success was partly down to Huw Wiggin and James Sherlock’s entertaining platform manner, sparring off each other verbally as well as musically – a style of given its head in François Borne’s virtuoso Fantasie on themes from Carmen. I’ll even let them off starting half-way through it without telling anyone.

 

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Two supreme performers who treated them to a dazzling display of musicianship, artistry and technical wizardry, the like of which they can only occasionally have encountered.

Westmorland Gazette, Brian Paynes

The Kendal Midday Concert Club has the happy knack – when faced with last-minute changes of artist – of finding replacements of equal professional standing who are significantly much more than mere ‘replacements’. Such was the case recently when the pianist, James Sherlock, due to partner the saxophonist, Huw Wiggin, in an  attractive pre-Christmas recital, was indisposed and unable to appear. In his place Huw called upon Somi Kim, a young South Korean lady, who studied in New Zealand, graduating in 2013, won numerous prizes there and, after moving to the UK to study at the Royal Academy and winning further prizes, has become a Park Lane Group Artist. Somi has gained much experience in repetiteuring and is much sought after as a chamber musician and song accompanist.

So original, daring & musically dazzling that it takes one’s breath away

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Sometimes a concert can be so original, daring & musically dazzling that it takes one’s breath away and reminds us of the potential of live music. Huw Wiggin’s virtuoso saxophone playing was one such occasion. The programme was fascinating, including two stunning pieces from Graham Fitkin: ‘Glass’ was a melancholy number that was beautifully simple, still and moving (featuring subtle piano backing from James Sherlock) whereas ‘Gate’ was a more technically challenging piece that was a rewarding showstopper.

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“Huw Wiggin’s performance of Bernstein’s “There’s a place for us” played with such sensitivity, I am sure stirred emotions with the beautiful tone, dynamic gradations and spell binding long note values which were perfect in intonation, even in the pianissimo passages – a master class in breath control indeed.”

Security of intonation

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“Saxophonist Huw Wiggin had the full measure of the engaging and highly unpredictable variations on a theme of Leonardo da Vinci that are Giles Swayne’s Leonardo’s Dream (2007), with its airborne final stage summoning an appealingly mellifluous tone, then dispatching Michael Berkeley’s Keening (1987) with the appropriate plangent tone. Wiggin gave Two Memorials by Mark-Anthony Turnage – the wistful, even diffident ‘Trier’ (2000) and the more overtly commemorative ‘Memorial’ (1995), displaying a security of intonation not to be taken for granted with the soprano saxophone.”

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20/09/2020