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Snell Sessions / Christopher Creviston, Hannah Gruber

Faure / Karg-elert / Heinick / Creviston / Gruber
Release Date: 08/09/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1285  
Composer:  David HeinickWilliam AlbrightSigfrid Karg-ElertGabriel Fauré,   ... 
Performer:  Christopher CrevistonHannah Gruber
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

THE SNELL SESSIONS Christopher Creviston (sax); Hannah Creviston (pn) ALBANY 1285 (51:22)

HEINICK Mantis. ALBRIGHT Saxophone Sonata. KARG-ELERT Sonata Appasionata. FAURÉ Vocalise-etude. BÉDARD Fantaisie. Read more class="COMPOSER12"> MUCZYNSKI Saxophone Sonata

In a way, I have already had my say on this release. In Fanfare 36:1, I reviewed the second of this duo’s releases on Albany, The Columbia Sessions . In that review I said, “ The Snell Sessions …CD is too short as well, but still manages to offer the most engrossing recordings of the William Albright and Robert Muczynski sonatas that I now know.” Nothing has come along since to change that impression.

Christopher Creviston was a busy and successful New York jazz and pop freelancer earlier in his career, but there are only a couple of pieces on the program that will strike the listener as being jazz-inflected. The cool and slightly urban noir Andante maestoso of Muczynski’s sonata—though the original title for the sonata was Desert Sketches —and the last movement of the Albright sonata are the obvious exceptions. Still, these are performances clearly influenced by Creviston’s jazz experience. There is always a fresh improvisatory feel to the playing, like the music is being composed as it is being played, and he shows his jazz experience as well in his brilliant, sometimes even edgy, tone. Those who have read my previous saxophone recital reviews will realize that I generally prefer a warmer more rounded sound, but it is a preference that I easily leave behind in light of Creviston’s remarkable ability to shape his tonal color and vibrato to the demands of the music.

I suspect the general approach to tone production is part of the secret to his amazing facility in altissimo. It is on display in several works, notably another wonderful performance of a piece for flute, the Sonata Appassionata , op. 140, by Sigfrid Karg-Elert— The Columbia Sessions CD includes an amazing performance of the Poulenc Flute Sonata—and in David Heinick’s whimsical and ultimately fearsome Mantis . While at times the tone can approach stridency—always, I must add, where it mirrors the musical intent, as in that final Mad Dance of Albright’s sonata—Creviston is also capable of the most gentle whisper of a tone. This, combined with his ability to play on the tip of the note—lightly, as if the phrase is spun glass—creates moments of extraordinary beauty and delicacy. This is most evident in the marvelous performance of the Scherzo: Will o’ the Wisp s from the Albright sonata. It is also used to great effect in the beginning of Heinick’s work and in the Denis Bédard 1984 Fantaisie —a perfect accompaniment to the transcription of a lovely 1906 Fauré Vocalise-etude —where he matches the crystalline purity of his partner’s playing.

Throughout this recital, in fact, Hannah Creviston is the perfect partner, matching her saxophonist husband in technical facility, musicality, and imagination. At times they become almost indistinguishable from each other, as if one person was performing both roles. It is quite amazing to hear. What is more, Creviston, in his interview, comments on the notorious difficulty of many of the piano parts to saxophone works. That Hannah performs these formidable pieces with such apparent ease is further testimony to her exceptional abilities.

They now call themselves the Creviston Duo, since their marriage this last summer, though Hannah Creviston will likely still appear as Hannah Gruber in recording listings. I am most pleased that the duo has been maintained, with both partners now members of the Arizona State University faculty, since their seemingly clairvoyant collaborations are a joy to experience. Readers who have read the interview with Christopher in this issue will know that there is another CD in the works, likely available soon after this hits the mailboxes. I assume it will benefit from the same fine engineering—clear, present, but with a nice sense of space—and top-drawer presentation as its predecessors. Long may the Creviston Duo prosper.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Matis by David Heinick
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Century 
Written: USA 
Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano by William Albright
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984; USA 
Sonata appassionata for Flute solo, Op. 140 by Sigfrid Karg-Elert
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917; Germany 
Vocalise-étude by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; France 
Fantaisie for Saxophone and Piano by Denis Bédard
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Sonata for Saxophone and Piano, Op. 29 by Robert Muczynski
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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