Notes and Editorial Reviews
Concertino da camera.
Alto Saxophone Concerto in E?.
Alto Saxophone Concerto
Eugene Rousseau (sax); Paul Kuentz, cond; Paul Kuentz CO
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 453991 (54:17)
Many years ago, when this album first came out (1972), it made an enormous splash among saxophone
enthusiasts, who up till that time had to be content with various LPs that were being issued of their favorite players by collegiate resources (repertoire was not even an issue, so little was recorded) and the occasional oddity, as when Vincent Abbado made his recording of some of these same pieces for Nonesuch, whose pressings were notoriously unreliable even though their adventurous programming has not since been equaled. I remember speaking with Rousseau in his office in fall of 1973, and asking him about this recording, the only one made with orchestra at that point, and on a major label. “We’ve been a little disappointed with the sales” was the reply I got. Little then did either of us realize the classic status this recording would assume over the years, and even today it remains one of the major—if not
major—bedrocks that all others are measured against.
Rousseau was, of course, a student of the French saxophonist Marcel Mule (who lived to be 100, and died in 2001) and was a fervent adherent to the French school established by him, characterized by a thinner, more nasal sound, even, linear technique, and a more straightforward approach to interpretation. As so often in the history of music, various “schools” compete with one another, often violently, and the saxophone was no exception. Sigurd Rascher, a German-born player, established a competing school that emphasized the similarities of the instrument to the human voice, and was noted for his incredibly warm, dark, and rich tone. Even at Indiana University (where my Rousseau story takes place), at the same time I remember a sax-player (a Rascher fan) who would have nothing to do with Rousseau’s playing, and was studying instead with violinist Josef Gingold. The times were tough then and still are today, though most of the hostilities have settled down, at least in America, where a certain homogenized sound has developed over the years. Nonetheless, it is interesting that at least two of the concertos on this disc (Ibert, Glazunov) were dedicated to Rascher.
But it was Rousseau who became perhaps the most sought-after teacher in this country, even more so after the release of this disc, and the playing, while incredibly lithe and muscular, demonstrates to perfection the art of the French School. There have been few players able to tongue as fast as he does, and the evenness and dexterity of his technique, particularly in the lower register, serves as a model for all who attempt these works. But this recording is far more than just a sax cult album—the music here is exquisitely crafted, the previously mentioned Ibert and Glazunov concertos being some of the finest music each composer penned, the Villa-Lobos absolutely equal to
he wrote (and for soprano, not alto, saxophone), and the Concerto by Pierre Max Dubois (who was an enormously gifted wind-writer in the best tradition of the
, of whom Milhaud was his teacher) has a brilliantly lively rodeo theme in the last movement that challenges each saxophone-player that dares to take it up. In other words, this is music with universal appeal, and any collection without at least one sax disc—this one—can be considered lacking. Those who hear it unfailingly come to love it, and for that reason it belongs in
’s Classical Hall of Fame.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
Works on This Recording
Concertino da camera by Jacques Ibert
Eugene Rousseau (Alto Saxophone)
Paul Kuentz Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1935; France
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