Gameshow: Saxophone Concertos

This review was published on: November 22nd 2013
Sospiro Records, SOSRB1000112, £11.75
Rob Buckland with the RNCM Wind Orchestra
Conducted by Mark Heron and Clark Rundell with special guest John Harle
Review by Ken Morris

The last issue of Clarinet & Saxophone (Spring 2013) carried a piece by William Upton on Rob Buckland and provided some background on the gestation of the “Gameshow” project which carries four pieces, the first three of which were written for Rob. This is a record which will appeal to two classes of listener – saxophonists and wind orchestra aficionados – mainly because the material, the brilliance of the performance and the recording quality is of such an exceptionally high standard. This reviewer auditioned his copy just after a similar exercise on an extremely “commercial” CD on which the alto saxophonist had been subjected to some sort of sound processing and it was a delight to hear Rob and John deliver such exquisite tonal quality on each one of the three horn sizes involved. I can do no better than repeat a comment from Rob's 'sleeve' notes : “(the recording engineers) bring these wonderful pieces to life in a way which captures the breadth of colour, nuance and energy”.

Concerto for saxophone and Wind Orchestra (composer Michael Ball/conductor Mark Heron) lasts just over 10 minutes and can be summarised as three segued movements for alto: a nimble allegro con brio, a quite beautiful moderato theme leading into an electrifying cadenza/amazing vivace. Superb orchestration of a modern but fully accessible score.
Dark Rain (composer Andy Scott/conductor Heron) is a 22 minute single movement double saxophone concerto in which John Harle guests on soprano and alto whilst Rob handles alto and tenor. The 'notes' explain that this piece was inspired by a trip to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and that it also pays homage to the versatility of the saxophone. Personally I found the deliberate creation of tension between the soloists via dissonance to be a little disconcerting – this occurs at the outset and near the end and is, I suspect, intentional. As a whole Dark Rain contains quite brilliant orchestration (especially the chorale section) and, as for the entire disc, masterful sax solo work.
Gameshow (composer Graham Fitkin/conductor Clark Rundell) is a single movement 15 minute soprano solo which displays the consummate artistry of Rob. An absolute corker of a solo requiring world class chops to deliver a world class sound somewhat in the style of an Irish dance. Delightful!
Finally the Tallahatchie Concerto (for alto, composer Jacob ter Veldhuis/re-arranged by Marc Rogers for wind orchestra/conductor Rundell) is a two movement (7 and 10 mins respectively) piece. The first, slow, section is a quite splendid tone poem, very atmospheric very well orchestrated. The second, faster, section is more a 'party piece' for the soloist and, of course, superbly played.
In summary: an exemplary CD in every respect.

Kenneth Morris


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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at Flat 51, Parkview Apartments, 122 Chrisp Street, London, E14 6ET. Email: membership(@) Tel: 01642 769 558

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