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Legende - Works For Saxophone And Orchestra / Theodore Kerkezos

Kerkezos,Theodore / Lso / Simonov
Release Date: 11/09/2010 
Label:  Onyx   Catalog #: 4065   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claude DebussyFlorent SchmittHenri TomasiVincent D'Indy,   ... 
Performer:  Theodore Kerkezos
Conductor:  Yuri Simonov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LÉGENDE Theodore Kerkezos (sax); Yuri Simonov, cond; London SO ONYX 4065 (66:56)

DEBUSSY Saxophone Rhapsody. SCHMITT Légende. TOMASI Saxophone Concerto. D’INDY Choral varié. MAURICE Tableaux de Provence Read more />

Even in a world awash with superb classical saxophonists, Theodore Kerkezos stands out. Greek-born and educated at the Athens Conservatory, where he now teaches, Kerkezos is also French-trained, having studied with Jean-Marie Londeix and Daniel Deffayet. The cool elegance of his playing and the smoky warmth of his tone suggests as much. His new recital of works for saxophone and orchestra joins three earlier such on the Naxos label, all rapturously received by Jerry Dubins in these pages: Fanfare 30: 4 and 28:5. Wholeheartedly sharing my colleague’s enthusiasm for those earlier discs, I am happy to report that this release is every bit as fine. The program is French, and while none of the pieces are neglected, none suffer from overexposure either. All of the works exploit the honeyed singing quality of the instrument, and are generally designed to create atmosphere rather than to display technique for its own sake, though there are certainly challenges for the soloist and plenty of drama.

The Iberian-tinted Impressionism of the Debussy Rhapsody for Saxophone and Orchestra will likely be the most familiar experience here. Kerkezos includes it in one of his earlier Naxos discs, where conductor Martyn Brabbins’s approach offers clear textures and an assertive pace. Yuri Simonov is more mistily evocative; a dream of a Spanish dance rather than the dance itself. Kerkezos is responsive to both approaches, though if I had to choose one it would be the newer. Here he reveals a beguiling playfulness as well as the underlying nostalgia, and is brilliantly assertive in the climatic crisis, seconded perfectly by the London Symphony Orchestra.

The album’s namesake, Florent Schmitt’s hauntingly impressionistic Légende, complements the atmosphere of the Debussy, while offering a sound world more modern in its syncopations and brassy climaxes. Kerkezos artfully weaves the solo saxophone in and out of Schmitt’s twilight textures with their Wagnerian overtones. Much can be forgiven a composer of such beautiful music. Corsican conductor/composer Henri Tomasi’s concerto extends the nocturnal mood of the preceding, with a contemplation of the mystical 16th-century poem La noche oscura del alma , in what is not a traditional concerto but more a two-part tone poem. Tomasi contrasts the spiritual and sensual aspects of the St. John of the Cross poem in highly dramatic music that could, in truth, just as well describe a contemporary urban nightscape. However, once the idea is planted, the dark night crisis of the poem is plausibly suggested by the first movement and its ecstatic resolution by the lively second. The solo saxophone, more commentator than protagonist, is noble and moving, and impressively agile in the energetic finale.

The solemn processional that begins Vincent D’Indy’s Choral varié returns us to the contemplative. Again, this is a tone poem, though more traditionally liturgical in effect, consisting of a set of variations on the introduction and chorale theme. Wagner’s influence is felt once again; indeed, it is hard to imagine the work without reference to the music of Parsifal . Kerkezos is a model of subtlety and soulfulness. The program concludes with a suite of five genial portraits of Provence by Parisian composer Paule Maurice. Hers is light music of the highest quality, drawing upon the same folk traditions as Bizet’s incidental music for L’Arlésienne . Indeed the drumbeats of La Bohémienne will sound very familiar. The suite provides a perfect encore, generally charming, with a moment of sad reflection on the loss of a loved one in Des Alyscamps l’âme soupire , and in the last portrait, Le Cabridan (The Hornet), a technical challenge for the soloist as well.

All of these works have been admirably recorded before, some by such luminaries as Claude Delangle and Jean-Marie Londeix, but none have performed them better than Theodore Kerkezos does here. The support provided by Yuri Simonov and the LSO is superlative, as is the engineering. There is no reason not to treat yourself.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames


Going by his previous recordings (Naxos Ballades and Naxos Impressions) Theodore Kerkezos is a saxophonist with a mission. There’s nothing untowards in that especially if like me one of your weaknesses is the sound of the saxophone in all its guises.

This disc presents five fairly rare works for sax and orchestra three of which (D’Indy, Debussy and Schmitt) were commissioned by Elise Boyer Hall (1851-1924) an early pioneer enthusiast of the instrument. The Debussy is done in dreamy and sultry style, eyes half closed, with the humidity high at one moment and dry in its Moroccan finery at the next. For me Kerkezos catches this work more atmospherically and with greater sinuous élan than Jean-Marie Londeix on the classic 1970s Martinon Debussy cycle. The pacing is more flexible and spontaneous and the realm more ecstatically sensuous with Simonov and Kerkezos. The Schmitt Légende has more narrative steel, seductive contrast and Ravel like impressionism. The more I hear by Schmitt the more I want to hear. The whole thing is a delight and the ending is a masterly sequence. Tomasi is as deserving of really serious attention as Schmitt. Would that Chandos or Bis take up his case and begin a whole series of orchestral recordings. Here the mix across the two movements is rife with fantasy, violence and a heady brand of danger and seduction. The finale - Giration is jazzy, feral and a little out of control but for the peroration grasps a sunny eminence and ends in a final orchestral slash. D’Indy’s Choral Varié is an immersion in slow melancholy and warm unhurried grandeur. Paule Maurice’s Tableaux de Provence was new to me. It is in five diminutive movements: I Farandole des jeunes filles (Dance of the Young Girls); II Chanson pour ma mie (Song for my Love); III La Bohémienne (The Bohemian Girl); IV Des Alyscamps l’âme soupire (The Sigh of the Soul for the Alyscamps); V Le Cabridan (The bumblebee). They’re all agreeably light on the aural palate, a good valedictory contrast with the other works and utterly charming. Their mood is similar to that established by Milhaud’s Suite Francaise and Suite Provencale and Canteloube’s orchestration of the Auvergnat songs. I hope we will hear more by her.

This is a lovely disc, well documented and crying out with discoveries.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Rhapsodie for Saxophone and Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Theodore Kerkezos (Saxophone)
Conductor:  Yuri Simonov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901-1908; France 
Légende, Op. 66 by Florent Schmitt
Performer:  Theodore Kerkezos (Saxophone)
Conductor:  Yuri Simonov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; France 
Concerto for Saxophone by Henri Tomasi
Performer:  Theodore Kerkezos (Saxophone)
Conductor:  Yuri Simonov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; France 
Choral varié, Op. 55 by Vincent D'Indy
Performer:  Theodore Kerkezos (Saxophone)
Conductor:  Yuri Simonov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 
Tableaux de Provence by Paule Maurice
Performer:  Theodore Kerkezos (Saxophone)
Conductor:  Yuri Simonov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954-1959; France 

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