HANNAH MARCINOWICZ (saxophone)
JOHN REID (piano)
November 2015 at 4.00 pm
Intermezzo from Goyescas
Vocalise Op 34 No 14
A Day In New York City
Hannah last performed for us in 2008 and she performed so superbly that we have invited her back. She has become an ambassador for her instrument, often regarded undeservedly as a poor relation in classical music. "Wittily crafted, brilliantly executed" (The Times).
OMS audiences are accustomed to the wild musical contrasts placed before them in their Sunday concerts, but seldom has the gap been as wide as that between an august and revered string quartet and a glamorous young woman playing an instrument still not fully admitted to the world of 'serious' music. Yet Sundays' audience, gratifyingly large by OMS standards, seemed to take the leap in their stride and, by the end, were as enthusiastic in their applause for saxophonist Hannah Marcinowicz as they had been last month for the Endellion String Quartet.
That this was so was entirely due to Hannah's effervescent presentation, her choice of music, and, not least, her consummate musicianship which enabled her to sound equally at home in all music from Bach to contemporary. She began with a sonata attributed to Bach (and others), probably written for flute or violin, but Hannah brought such an authentic classical style that any doubts were banished. Her programme contained seven works by living female composers, some of them specially arranged for Hannah, and some having their origin in music for film or TV - the best known must have been Debbie Wiseman's music for Wolf Hall which kept the nation in thrall last winter. What these works had in common was a simplicity and a monochrome means of expression, a far cry from the expansive world of the Hollywood greats. Now, with the small TV screen all-important, music can use a subtler and less obtrusive part in telling a story.
Hannah's pianist was John Reid, last at OMS earlier this year with clarinettist Tim Orpen. He played one solo, Debussy's 'Jardin Sous la Pluie' - here was direct impressionist technicolour, aided by John's ability to project vivid tone colour; imaginative programming by them. John's complimentary remarks about the qualities of The Muse and, particularly, the Steinway of which OMS is so lucky to have the use, were appreciated and, seemingly, endorsed by our audience.
Hannah changed instruments and timbre, from soprano to alto sax, for most of the second half. She found the right tempi and transatlantic spirit for Terry Trower's suite 'A Day in New York City', a work inspired by his visit to the scenes he portrays. It was a great pleasure that Terry was with us to hear his work - he was visibly delighted by Hannah's vital performance of his work. She closed the afternoon with a showpiece 'Pequena Czarda' by Pedro Iturralde, at 86 by far the oldest of the concerts' eight living composers (another OMS record?). Written when he was 20, it sounded as much a Hungarian rhapsody as a Spanish dance, and brought the concert to a suitable climax.
Hannah proved that in the hands of a performer of her quality, the saxophone is well capable of sustaining a two hour concert. Yet the saxophone is unusual in that, unlike most instruments which have evolved from 'period' instruments to their present state of perfection, it was the creation of one man. Adophe Sax was born in 1814, the son of instrument makers in Dinant in Belgium. On graduating from the Royal Conservatory, he worked on improvements to the bass clarinet, and, on moving to Paris, to the valved bugle which led to the flugelhorn and euphonium. Then in 1846 came his big invention, the saxophone, which caught the imagination of the musical world. His genius, though, was not matched by business acumen - he was bankrupted in 1856 and again 1873, was involved in constant litigation and finally died in poverty in 1894.
2014 therefore marked his bicentenary, and the Belgians certainly did him proud last year.. The Museum of Musical Instruments in Brussels is one of the world's great musical resources - they celebrated with a marvellous exhibition, SAX200: the whole of the fourth floor of the Art Nouveau building was devoted to an exhibition of Sax's many inventions - every possible type of saxophone plus saxhorns, saxtubas, saxtrombas all gleaming in display cases as far as the eye could see. Some were of such fiendish complexity that one doubts whether they ever made it on to the concert platform - you'd need more than a fingering chart to get a noise out of them, more likely a Haynes Motor Manual. Alongside each display was a button which allowed you to hear the sound of each instrument - the museum echoed to a wonderful melange of eructations!
Not surprisingly, Sax was feted all over Belgium on his 200th birthday. In our country, the honour we bestow on our national treasures is an spot of 'Desert Island Discs' - in Belgium the same mark of esteem is that for one day, their national monument, the Manneken Pis in Brussels, was dressed in the uniform of Bandmaster Adolphe Sax. What a tribute!
PS. Thinking of OMS pianists, members will remember a superb concert three years ago by Clare Hammond. She is now to be seen playing to a far larger audience on screen as Miss Shepherd, 'The Lady In The Van' in Alan Bennett's film. Clare is the young Miss Shepherd who plays Chopin at a Prom. Not only does Clare play on screen, she acts! OMS' first Oscar nominee?