Percy Grainger: Music for Saxophones

review grainger x1 cong
This isn’t what you might expect from Grainger, at least if you only know Percy for his jaunty arrangements of sea shanties that are played at the Last Night of the Proms.

There’s a little bit of said jauntiness towards the end but mostly the sound reflects Grainger’s fondness for folk songs and early music.

Grainger called the saxophone “the world’s finest wind-tone tool” and liked the fact that the sax family range echoes that of the human voice. He said it could replicate any polyphonic vocal works from the 13th century up to and including Bach — an arrangement of the latter’s Prelude and Fugue No5 appears on this CD.

The initial reaction is that it doesn’t sound like a saxophone album. Grainger was correct in comparing the instrument’s sound to the human voice and the overall sound is a quirky one, half early vocal music and half some initially undefined wind instrument, though it can also sound like a church organ.

In places there’s a feel of that old Hovis advert, too: it’s a very comforting sound, a bit like the section of Dvorák’s New World Symphony played by brass that proved so evocative of a by-gone age in the breadmaker’s famous advert.

Half the CD is early polyphonic music from the medieval and Renaissance eras so it has that pleasing early music sound.

Grainger himself contributes two works, opening piece The Immovable Do and The Lonely Desert-Man Sees the Tents Of The Happy Tribes. His famous (and jaunty) arrangement of Lisbon also features.
American saxophonist Joyce Griggs, who directs the ensemble players, discovered the previously unknown manuscripts of Grainger’s, designed for saxophones, that feature on the CD. The players are J Michael Holmes, Phil Pierick, Jesse Dochnahl, Adam Hawthorne, Drew Whiting, Ben Kenis and Adrianne Honnold, with Casey Gene Dierlam on piano.
Out on Naxos, 8573228.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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