Una Voce Poco Fa
opera paraphrases for 4 saxophones and piano
Alliage Quartet and Jang Eun Bae (piano)
Rhapsody on Bizet’s Carmen (Jun Nagao); Overture to Barber of Seville (Rossini); Fantasy after Tosca (Puccini/Hilner); Suite on Porgy and Bess (Gershwin/Dedenon); Seductive Realm after Magic Flute(Mozart/Imai)
MDG 603 1272-2
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Before listening to this CD, I had some reservations based on too many encounters with indifferent offerings by brass and/or woodwind ensembles playing bad arrangements of music written for other media. But only moments into this recording, it is abundantly apparent that the four saxophonists featured here are masters of their instruments. Moreover, the arrangements offered here, with a single exception, are in the best sense tasteful, constantly respectful of the style of the composers concerned. As well, Korean pianist Jang Eun Bae, who also features in some of the transcriptions, is invariably on a par with the German saxophonists.
Andreas Hilner’s clever (in the positive sense) reworking of extracts from Puccini’s Tosca gets dream treatment from the quartet; Scarpia’s theme comes across as the quintessence of malevolence. It makes for compelling listening.
Sylvain Dedenon’s suite after themes from Porgy and Bess is first rate, too, and beautifully presented, the quartet, made up of soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, sounding as if positively relishing coming to grips with the bustling measures of Jasbo Brown. The yearning, haunting essence of Summertime is beautifully evoked as is the groovy essence of It ain’t necessarily so.
Sebastian Pottmeier (who plays baritone saxophone in the ensemble) has done wonders in his arrangement of the overture to Rossini’s Barber of Seville to which the group responds in the most agreeably stylish way. Much the same could be said of Jun Nagao’s Rhapsody on Bizet’s Carmen. Here, the quartet is joined by pianist Jang Eun Bae in an impeccable offering.
The magic is absent only in a reworking of themes from Mozart’s Magic Flute, the music of which doesn’t translate well to this medium notwithstanding the quality of the playing. But this is the only disappointment in a compilation that otherwise provides almost unalloyed listening pleasure.
Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn