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Passions Large & Small / Wytko, Cosand, Buck

Weaver / Ibert / Wytko
Release Date: 03/09/2010 
Label:  Aca Digital   Catalog #: 20092   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Alfred DesenclosBrent WeaverWilliam AlbrightMikel Kuehn,   ... 
Performer:  Walter CosandElizabeth BuckJoseph Wytko
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PASSIONS LARGE & SMALL Joseph Wytko (sax); Walter Cosand (pn); Elizabeth Buck (fl) ACA CM 20092 (60: 44)

DESENCLOS Prelude, cadence et finale. WEAVER Psalm. ALBRIGHT Sonata. KUEHN Crack. IBERT Concertino da Camera
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Joseph Wytko, not a saxophonist with whom I am familiar, offers us a most attractive recital on this CD, mixing chestnuts from the standard sax repertoire with several unfamiliar works. He plays with an expressive and pleasing tone throughout, with sensitive and well-considered phrasing, and considerable virtuosity. So who is Joseph Wytko? Well, if you peruse the skimpy notes included with this CD, you will not find a single word about him. So everything you’re reading here came from my exploration of his website at JosephWytkoSaxophone.com. From it, I learned that he is currently visiting professor of music (saxophone) at the University of Georgia, and that he has widely performed as soloist with orchestras in Phoenix and Pittsburgh, and as an orchestral member of the Chicago Symphony, Grant Park Orchestra, and others. Wytko obtained his B.M.E. degree from West Virginia University, and both of his graduate degrees from Northwestern University.

Wytko opens his recital with the Prelude, cadence et finale of Alfred Desenclos, a staple in the repertoire of saxophonists. Desenclos, who won a Prix de Rome in 1942, was reportedly not convinced of the quality of his music, and consequently wrote comparatively little. Considering how well he integrates technical virtuosity in both instruments with romantic passion, I believe that this work single-handedly belies his opinion of his music’s value. It is, in fact, so popular with saxophonists that it has been arranged for sax and orchestra by Russell Peterson and for sax and band by both Donald Patterson and Karl Veen.

The Desenclos is followed by Psalm by Brent Weaver (b.1958), an American composer who has been on the faculty of George Fox University since 2001. This work is scored for alto sax alone, and weaves its plaintive song around occasional multiphonic outbursts. This work is actually part of a five-movement sonata for alto saxophone, percussion, and piano. The present performance, with permission of the composer, is performed into the open lid of the piano with certain keys depressed, such that those notes reverberate sympathetically in the strings of the piano.

The Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano of William Albright is, at 19 minutes, one of the more substantial sonatas for this instrument known to me. Typical of Albright’s music, it covers a very wide range of styles and emotions, from the rhythmically complex first movement, “Two-part Invention,” through a mournful second movement, “La Follia Nuova: a Lament for George Cadoppo,” a delightful scherzo using the extremes of the piano, “Will o’ the Wisp,” and finally to a solo saxophone introduction and raucous dance, “Recitative and (Mad) Dance.” This final movement incorporates jazz elements and winds up in very amusing fashion. The present performers gave the premiere of this 1984 work.

Mikel Kuehn, for those who may not know about him, was born in 1967 and studied at the Eastman School of Music for his M.M. and D.M., after having obtained his B.M. at the University of North Texas. He is now on the faculty of Bowling Green State University, where he is the director of the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music. In this work, Wytko is joined by flutist Elizabeth Buck, and the piano accompaniment yields to one consisting of electro-acoustic sounds. With the title Crack, I had no idea what to expect from this piece. No, it has nothing to do with illicit drugs, but instead the notes (i.e., multiphonics) found within the cracks (“between the keys”) of the instruments. Nevertheless, as an inveterate punster, I am scarcely able to resist the urge to crack jokes about this work’s title. (Ahem: “Here, finally, is a piece that is all it’s cracked up to be.” But before our editor decides that my usefulness to Fanfare has ended, I’ll get back to the music.) The piece opens with a multiphonic on the sax, out of which the electronic sounds, and then the flute in its upper register, emerge. Twittering and trilling from the flute are accompanied by sustained electronic sounds, but it’s not always easy to tell where the one leaves off and the other begins. In short, this work is a most successful exercise in the blending of acoustic and electronic sounds, and is quite haunting in its effect.

World-renowned saxophonist and pedagogue Eugene Rousseau considers the Concertino da Camera of Jacques Ibert to be the first great piece of saxophone music, having been composed (in 1935) many decades after the instrument’s invention. By now, it has achieved the status of, “You play saxophone? When did you first perform Ibert’s Concertino?” Well, I might exaggerate, but not much, and so it makes sense that Wytko includes it in this recital, although it is heard in its piano-accompanied version (the original was scored for alto sax and 11 instruments). Despite this work’s ubiquity, it does make considerable demands on the performer, having some passages involving quick tonguing, and being perhaps the first work for saxophone to make significant flights into the altissimo register. I would guess that these were suggested by the work’s dedicatee and first performer, Sigurd Rascher. Wytko and pianist Cosand bring this work off with considerable panache, and their recording stands up well to the considerable competition, although I suspect that most listeners would prefer the version with the ensemble.

In summary, then, Wytko’s playing is well worth hearing, if your tastes run in the direction of classical saxophone. His colleagues give him excellent support, and the recorded sound is fine, the engineers having gone for the ambience of the concert hall, which I appreciate. The mix of styles of music on this CD is disparate enough that there is a fair chance that not all purchasers would like every piece, but I do like them all, and the playing of the artist who presents them to me.

FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
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Works on This Recording

Prélude, cadence et finale by Alfred Desenclos
Performer:  Walter Cosand (Piano), Elizabeth Buck (Flute), Joseph Wytko (Saxophone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956 
Venue:  Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 10 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Psalm by Brent Weaver
Performer:  Elizabeth Buck (Flute), Walter Cosand (Piano), Joseph Wytko (Saxophone)
Venue:  Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 6 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano by William Albright
Performer:  Walter Cosand (Piano), Elizabeth Buck (Flute), Joseph Wytko (Saxophone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984; USA 
Venue:  Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 18 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Crack, for flute, alto saxophone & electroacoustic accompaniment by Mikel Kuehn
Performer:  Walter Cosand (Piano), Joseph Wytko (Saxophone), Elizabeth Buck (Flute)
Venue:  Tempest Recording, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 13 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Concertino da camera by Jacques Ibert
Performer:  Joseph Wytko (Saxophone), Elizabeth Buck (Flute), Walter Cosand (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; France 
Venue:  Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 11 Minutes 30 Secs. 

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