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The Columbia Sessions / Creviston, Gruber

Creviston / Poulenc / Villa-lobos / Chang
Release Date: 03/13/2012 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1341  
Composer:  Francis PoulencClaude DelvincourtHeitor Villa-LobosDorothy Chang,   ... 
Performer:  Christopher CrevistonHannah Gruber
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

THE COLUMBIA SESSIONS Christopher Creviston (sax); Hannah Gruber (pn) ALBANY 1341 (57:33)

POULENC Flute Sonata. DELVINCOURT Croquembouches. VILLA-LOBOS Fantasy. CHANG 2 Preludes. BOLCOM Concert Suite

Read more /> With so many fine saxophonists out there recording for labels big, small, and custom, it is hard not to become blasé about yet another. I predict, however, that this recital by Christopher Creviston will reinvigorate even the most jaded of collectors. Listen to the first note of the Poulenc Sonata for Flute and Piano: a concert e 6 , played not on a flute but on a soprano saxophone. It is pure, perfectly pitched, and a whisper of tone, a feat remarkable for being done at all, little less so well. The soloist continues with an amazing technical display, playing figures and runs in the highest range of his instrument (and above: pianissimo altissimo !) where others are happy to simply produce an unpinched tone. Throughout the recital, he performs music posing a multitude of challenges, all with the same apparent ease, and with uncommon refinement and imagination as well. Creviston uses his wide range of tone qualities—from ultra-smooth to slightly tart and reedy—as a foil to his subtle, perceptive phrasing and flawless control of vibrato. He is matched in matters of virtuosity and style by his equally impressive and expressive duo partner, Hannah Gruber.

The program is an appealing combination of the familiar and the new. The arrangement of the witty, sophisticated Poulenc sonata, prepared by the soloist, is joined by two relatively well-known works in piano reductions: the Fantasy for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra by Heitor Villa-Lobos and the Concert Suite in E? for Alto Saxophone and Band by William Bolcom. There have been several first-rate recordings of the Fantasy, most with the original three horns and strings. I particularly enjoy John Harle with Neville Marriner on EMI, and this one is similarly understated and lyrical. The piano reduction is perforce less atmospheric, but Creviston compensates with quicker tempos and a rhythmic freedom that complements the more percussive support. In the Bolcom suite, Creviston doesn’t get as down and dirty in the bluesy fourth movement as Timothy McAllister did in his traversal as a faculty soloist with the Crane School of Music Wind Ensemble (Arizona University Recordings). In every other way, though, this new version is its match, with lots of character and some nicely placed altissimo . Contrary to usual preferences, I find Bolcom’s reduction just as effective as his band original, especially in the hands of Gruber.

(Note: Guess they like Bolcom in Potsdam, since Creviston was on the faculty at Crane until this fall when he headed down to Arizona State University to take McAllister’s spot while Timothy headed to Northwestern. Both these guys studied with Donald Sinta, for whom the Bolcom suite was written. Can’t tell the players without a program, folks …)

As for new works: the two contrasting Preludes for Alto Saxophone and Piano by Vancouver-based Dorothy Chang were written for Creviston in 1993. Conceived as preludes to a larger work that was never written, they really are more like etudes, each presenting the soloist with a different set of challenges. Adagio e espressivo requires outstanding control and the ability to phrase a melodic line with great freedom. Prestissimo demands bursts of digital facility from both of the partners and ability to follow a constantly shifting pulse. The second prelude concludes with a glissando up to an altissimo b 7 , something one must hear to believe. In contrast, Claude Delvincourt’s easygoing Croquembouches honors pastries, the title denoting crunchy French cone-shaped deserts made of cream puffs. Originally a 1926 suite for piano, Delvincourt adapted six of its 12 movements for saxophone and piano in 1946, while he was the director of the Paris Conservatory, assumedly for his professor of saxophone, Marcel Mule. Each is named for a sweet: Plumpudding, Puits d’amour, Nègre en chemise, Linzer Tart, Grenadine, Rahat Loukhoum. It is a delightful assemblage of treats, each clearly savored by the duo. And if the dessert cart comes before all of the courses are served, who is going to complain?

OK, one complaint: There could have been 20 more minutes of this aural pleasure. But then, that can be found in this duo’s release from summer 2011, The Snell Sessions . That CD is too short as well, but still manages to offer the most engrossing recordings of the Albright and Muczynski sonatas that I now know. I trust there will be even more to come. Creviston and Gruber have been playing together since 2007, but I am coming late to this fine pair of artists. If you already knew about them, forgive the belated gush. If you are uninitiated, as I was, waste no further time in rectifying that.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Flute and Piano by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956-1957; France 
Croquembouches by Claude Delvincourt
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; France 
Fantasia for Saxophone, 2 Horns and Strings, W 490 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; Brazil 
Two Preludes for Saxophone and Piano by Dorothy Chang
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Concert Suite for Alto Saxophone and Band by William Bolcom
Performer:  Christopher Creviston (Saxophone), Hannah Gruber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Notes: Version for Alto Saxophone and Piano. 

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