Notes and Editorial Reviews
Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Chamber Orchestra
Threnos of Creon.
Homage to Louisiana
Simos Papanas (vn);
Gabriel Beavers (bn);
Athens Sax Qrt;
Dinos Constantinides, cond; Louisiana Sinfonietta
CENTAUR CRC 3036 (69:27) Live: Baton Rouge
I previously reviewed (positively) a disc of Constantinides on Centaur in
32:1. There, the Symphony No. 6 (“Celestial”) was coupled with the Third Concerto for alto saxophone,
. In the present instance, the performances are credited as “live,” but no further information is given.
The booklet notes (presumably by the composer himself) describe the Concerto for Four Saxophones (2001) as “a fun piece.” There are quotations (and near-quotations) galore. The four movements (Prologue—Tetralogue—Monologue I and II—Epilogue) make for a satisfying balance.
The Athens Saxophone Quartet is a superb little group, whose ability to live and breathe as a simple unit brings much joy here. The way they dig into the active Tetralogue is delicious, while the third movement continually threatens to blossom into themes within the classical listener’s subconscious. Constantinides easily moves between the pastiche of different styles. The recording, forward yet not intimidatingly so, underlines the sheer vitality the piece breathes.
Homage to Louisiana
(1995) was commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the transfer of Louisiana from France under Napoleon to the United States. Originally the intention was to set the text of the transfer (with narrator), but Constantinides felt music alone was enough. He uses the national anthems of both countries during the course of the work to good effect. The Violin Concerto of 1994 consists of two movements titled “Patterns” (composed 1989 and 1994, respectively) surrounding a central “Idyll.” There is a gentleness to the work that is most beguiling. Simos Papanas is a fine, agile, sweet-toned soloist whose bow control in the beautifully serene “Idyll” is magnificent. His agility in the finale, too, is inspiring, as is his swagger with the more long-breathed themes.
Constantinides’s natural gift for lyricism is to the fore once more in the 2003 work for English horn and string orchestra,
Threnos of Crete
. Here the music derives from Constantinides’s opera
and is designed to reveal King Creon’s desolate state of mind. If not music of utter emotional devastation, it nevertheless makes its point, and James Ryon is a most eloquent soloist. Finally, the Bassoon Concerto of 1996. Again, the movements have titles (“Spirals,” “Planes (Song),” and “Pendulums”). Spiralling ostinati characterize the first movement (they are mirrored in the finale). Gabriel Beavers is a superb soloist, phrasing the Greek song of the central panel magnificently and tenderly. The finale emerges gently from this, before embarking on an exhilarating ride. This is a fine addition to the bassoon’s concerto repertoire.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
Constantinides is fond of the saxophone; either that or saxophonists are fond of Constantinides … or possibly both. His symphony no. 6 and two other saxophone concertos can be found on another disc from the same company Centaur CRC 2871. The Concerto for Saxophone Quartet is in five movements. The writing is as melodic and lively as usual with this composer. It recalls Glass and Nyman in its pecking insistent excitement with a hint of Beethoven’s Fifth in the Prologue and in Monologue I and II. A lush Mozartean sound is established in the Tetralogue. The Homage to Louisiana is a haunting piece with shadows of the anthems of the USA and France appearing as shifting wraiths. It was written to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Louisiana purchase. The Violin Concerto was premiered by Walter Verdehr whose family recordings have been a central strand of the Peter Christ’s Crystal label. The work appeared at the 1995 Festival of Contemporary Music at Louisiana University – the 50th anniversary of the Festival. It’s hyper-romantic, having affinities with the Barber, Walton and Sibelius concertos but in a blend with the music of Copland and Roy Harris. The romance is rapturously stormy in the outer movements but becalmed and tender in the Idyll. The Threnos of Creon derives from his opera Antigone. It is a soliloquy by or for King Creon when he has lost all. This plangent and poignant piece should be well liked by anyone who also enjoys Sibelius’s Swan of Tuonela, William Alwyn’s Autumn Legend or the desolate elegiac meditations one finds in the film music of Bernard Herrmann. The Bassoon Concerto was written for Miltiade Nenoiu. The three movements are played without pause though they are separately tracked here. This is a picaresque concerto and a sense of soul’s pilgrimage suffuses its pages. The liner-notes are good, the recording quality vivid, the soloists and orchestra skilled, lucidly portrayed by the engineers and the audience play a largely tacit role. This is attractively memorable and melodic music.
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Concerto for saxophone quartet & chamber orchestra, LRC 178 by Dinos Constantinides
Dionisios Roussos (Saxophone),
Eric Honour (Saxophone),
Athanasios Zervas (Saxophone),
Leo Sanguiguit (Saxophone)
Athens Saxophone Quartet
Length: 12 Minutes 6 Secs.
Violin Concerto, LRC 142b by Dinos Constantinides
Simos Papanas (Violin)
Length: 21 Minutes 28 Secs.
Bassoon Concerto, LRC 154a by Dinos Constantinides
Gabriel Beavers (Bassoon)
Length: 17 Minutes 12 Secs.
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