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This is a lovely disc, combining musicianship and imagination

Reflections

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

It was the recordings of saxophonist John Harle that introduced me to the classical saxophone via a range of borrowed melodies [discs like John Harle’s Saxophone Songbook]. On this disc from Orchid Classics, entitled Reflections, the young saxophone player Huw Wiggin, accompanied by John Lenehan (piano) and by Oliver Wass (harp), presents an eclectic programme of music by Alessandro Marcello, Franz Schubert, Edvard Grieg, Camille Saint-Saens, Claude Debussy, Manuel de Falla, Paule Maurice, Astor Piazzolla, Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov and the contemporary Japanese composer Takashi Yoshimatsu.

Invented by Adolphe Sax in the mid-19th century the saxophone was intended as a classical instrument, it never really caught on in orchestras but its ability to play fast passages like a woodwind instrument yet to project like a brass one led it to be popular in military bands. It does crop up occasionally in 19th-century French opera, such as Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet and Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le Prophete, and Debussy wrote for it. But it would be in jazz that the instrument found a real home in the 20th century. Techniques are different, and it requires a real leap to move from the smokey vibrato-led sleaze of the jazz saxophone to the more straight-toned classical style.

Huw Wiggin’s great virtue on this disc is that he makes it sound so natural and obvious.
He plays with a nice fluid tone, the instrument’s combination of reed and keys with a metal body giving a lovely mix of flexibility and edge to the tone. This is a very mobile sound, but one capable of many different incarnations.

I was particularly struck by the Debussy arrangements, Arabesque No. 1 and The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, where Wiggin is partnered by Oliver Wass’s harp. A seemingly unlikely combination that works real magic. Similarly, the ‘Air’ from Grieg’s Holberg Suite gives an entirely different slant to the music and, as with any good transcription, this one reinvents the music brilliantly.

Debussy’s work for saxophone and orchestra is not on this disc, but we do have 20th-century French composer Paule Maurice’s Tableaux de Provence, originally written for saxophone and orchestra between 1948 and 1955 and consisting of five charming pictures of Provencal life.

Though much of the music on the disc is lyrical, Manuel de Falla’s 7 Canciones populares espanolas give us a chance to sample the saxophone’s rhythmic and textural dexterity, something which appears in a different context in the fast outer movements of Alessandro Marcello’s Concerto and Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee.

The Debussy pieces apart, John Lenehan accompanies on the piano, providing a sympathetic and imaginative partnership, as well as doing some of the arrangements.

This is a lovely disc, combining musicianship and imagination, and giving us a fascinating glimpse into the world of the classical saxophone.

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Reflections
A keen musical intelligence and a remarkably beautiful sound

BBC Music Magazine, Kate Wakeling

Reflections
I’d put it up there on my top ten list of favourites this year
Thoroughly Good, Jon Jacob

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