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I’d put it up there on my top ten list of favourites this year

Reflections
Thoroughly Good, Jon Jacob

Royal Overseas League Gold Medal Winner and Royal Academy of Music professor Huw Wiggin has a new album of saxophone music. Reflections is a personal collection of favourite pieces: some familiar classics arranged for soprano and alto saxophone, plus one delightful outing for a rarely heard of composer – Paule Maurice.

Huw’s playing challenges assumptions about the saxophone. In some respects I think it’s the most challenging instrument to market, one that the audience pigeon-holes in rock, jazz or 80s pop. But in the right hands, the sound of a soprano sax in particular has a distinctive and unorthodox kind of elegance to it – a kind of souped-up cor anglais minus the ponderous baggage.

You can hear what I mean in the second movement of the Marcello – a soft persistent legato glides gently over gallant chords in the piano accompaniment.

Wiggin resists melancholy or over-sentimentality, creating something brimming with strong-jawed pride. In a similar way, the deeply personal Du bist die Ruh sings in a way I rarely hear the saxophone sound. And whilst I’m on the subject of legatos, his arrangement of The Swan from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals is more swan-like than the original setting for cello and chamber orchestra.

The notable delight on the album is a recording of French composer Paule Maurice’s work Tableaux de Provence – a rich, sophisticated evocation of Provence-life in the 1940s written in a neo-classical style…

Much of what I’ve come to really appreciate in this entire album is the recording technique. That’s not to do play down Huw Wiggin’s or pianist John Lenehan’s work, but it is the mix of sounds – a sometimes forte-piano sound from the keyboard combined with a saxophone that muffles the movement of the keys and doesn’t make too much of the articulation – that challenges the assumptions I referred to earlier.

And having listened to the album a number of times over the past month or so, I’d put it up there on my top ten list of favourites this year alongside Lewis Wright’s works for vibraphone, and Tenebrae’s Symphonic Psalms and Prayers.

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Reflections
A keen musical intelligence and a remarkably beautiful sound

BBC Music Magazine, Kate Wakeling

Reflections
This is a lovely disc, combining musicianship and imagination

Planet Hugill, Robert Hugill – Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★) 

Huw Wiggin: a virtuoso of the saxophone

Henley Standard

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

Classical Reviews, Joe Fuller (Brighton Festival 2015)

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.

Beautiful tone, dynamic gradations and spell binding long note values

Cromer Music Evenings, Terry Keeler

“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.”

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.

Security of intonation

Classical Source, Richard Whitehouse

“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