Notes and Editorial Reviews
Alto Saxophone Sonata.
Soprano Saxophone Sonata. Baritone Saxophone Sonata. Tenor Saxophone Sonata.
Le Petit Duo
Fisherman of the Fragrant Harbor. Paradosis
Kenneth Tse (sax);
Melanie Tse (cl);
Stephen Page (ssax);
Benjamin Boren (pn)
ENHARMONIC 12-022 (79:45)
Live: Minneapolis 7/10/2003
In 1999, David DeBoor Canfield happened upon a performance by Kenneth Tse, an experience that precipitated a close friendship between the two and the eventual creation of numerous works dedicated to the acclaimed saxophone virtuoso. In his conversation with James A. Altena (
34:4), Canfield expressed the desire to write a sonata for every instrument. While he hasn’t embraced the more distant relatives (so far as I know)—for example, the sopranino or contrabass saxophones—he’s covered the nuclear saxophone family with the four works recorded here. Tse prefers tonal music, so Canfield has obliged him, with the qualification that he has sometimes employed his personal system of free tonality to add a little harmonic spice. Furthermore, the choice of keys has sometimes been dictated by the spelling of Tse’s name, albeit rendered with poetic license to accommodate musical nomenclature. Interesting though these details may be, they’re not really necessary to appreciate the music, which is immediately appealing. The saxophone adds a mellifluous sonority; the same phrases spun out on the piano wouldn’t be nearly as sensuous as they are when played with Tse’s honeyed tone. Coupled with his precise intonation, supple phrasing, and impressive dexterity, his playing is a continual delight. Canfield’s slow movements are typically lyrically expressive while his fast ones recall Jean Françaix’s or Francis Poulenc’s cosmopolitan wit and sparkle. Another association: The
Furioso con fuoco
from the Soprano Saxophone Sonata at one point reminded me of the music from the opening credits of PBS’s
Lento, ma poco movente
from the same sonata segues into a faster tempo, with hints of Debussy in the piano’s concluding measures. The composer’s sense of humor can be heard in the subtly lurching—is that an oxymoronic juxtaposition?—Bolero from the Baritone Saxophone Sonata. It must be me, but I feel that that humorous quality extends to the following
Tempo di marcia funebre
. Mournful it may be, but it puts me more in mind of
than “the brevity of earthly life” (Canfield); accordingly, I hear a funeral march for a character who never lived and consequently hasn’t really suffered in this vale of tears.
Of the three non-sonata works on the program,
requires the most overt virtuosity. Its many speedy, intertwined passages demand, and receive, exacting coordination. Page, Tse, and Boren revel in the intricacies, with exhilarating results. For
, a charming set of three vignettes for clarinet and alto saxophone, Tse pairs with his wife, Melanie, who plays with the same silky smoothness as her famous husband. Benjamin Boren is an exciting and sensitive partner in five of the six works that call for a pianist, but that’s not in any way to slight Mami Park, whose fluid playing enlivens the Alto Saxophone Sonata, the one live recording on the CD. My one caveat is that, no doubt because of the acoustics, the piano sounds slightly recessed and a tad muffled; this is really a minor cavil in light of the superb performance. David DeBoor Canfield writes ingratiatingly for saxophone, piano, and clarinet and no doubt for any other combination of instruments he cares to explore. Kenneth Tse’s participation will undoubtedly lure saxophone aficionados, but anyone with a taste for skillfully written, engaging chamber music will find much to admire here.
FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper
Works on This Recording
Le Petit Duo by David DeBoor Canfield
Benjamin Boren (Piano),
Melanie Tse (Clarinet)
Paradosis by David DeBoor Canfield
Benjamin Boren (Piano),
Kenneth Tse (Alto Saxophone)
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