“Sunday Afternoon” = Works for Sax and Piano by POULENC, SINGELEE, GLAVOUNOV, DEBUSSY RAVEL, BRUCH – Christopher Creviston, sop. and alto saxophones/Hannah Creviston, piano – Creviston

by | Jan 29, 2014 | Classical CD Reviews

“Sunday Afternoon” = FRANCIS POULENC: Sonata for Oboe and Piano; JEAN BAPTISTE SINGELEÉ: Caprice for Soprano Saxophone and Piano; ALEXANDRE GLAZOUNOV: Concerto for Alto Saxophone; CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Syrinx; MAURICE RAVEL: Sonatine; MAX BRUCH: Kol Nidrei (Adagio on Hebrew Melodies) – Christopher Creviston, sop. and alto saxophones/Hannah Creviston, piano – Creviston, 56:41 [Distr. by CD Baby] (12/05/13) ****:

I have had the good fortune to hear Chris Creviston’s playing live and on recordings before and I reiterate my initial impression. Creviston is a simply amazing and artistic player who is one of a small, select group of younger performers who will rightfully inherit the star status of some of the giants of the previous generation, including players like Fred Hemke, Eugene Rousseau and Sigurd Rascher.

Chris has a nearly perfect blend of beautiful, liquid tone, incredible technique and good taste, always – in style and in chosen repertoire. This collection featuring Creviston and his wife Hannah, illustrates the point ideally. This program is a lovely and fascinating assembly of the familiar and the lesser known and of original works for saxophone and very attractive transcriptions of works for other instruments.

In the transcription department, many will know the Poulenc Oboe Sonata for its very characteristic slow opening and very sparkling and very ‘French’ scherzo. Poulenc was a master of alternating moods in his works and structuring slow movements, like the Elégie, in a way that still feels a bit pressing (a technique he used in his Sonatas for flute and clarinet, as well)  This transcription by Joseph Lulloff works very well and Creviston makes his soprano saxophone sing in nearly ‘oboe-like’ sonorities.

Debussy’s Syrinx is known to many as one of the icons of the solo flute repertoire. Here, too, Creviston’s playing the score as written gives it a slightly different sound (of course) but a wholly attractive one. The other two transcriptions bear great interest as well.

The Ravel Sonatine (from 1903) was originally a solo piano work, which was later transcribed for flute and piano by Hideo Kamioka. This transcription by the great saxophonist and composer Donald Sinta maintains all the ethereal charms of the original and offers a very attractive alternative to other renditions of this well known work out there. Again, the Crevistons play this lovely and important work with great sensitivity. It is especially in this work that Chris’s amazingly clear and flute-like altissimo register comes through so nicely.

Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei (Hebrew: “all vows”) is, perhaps, less well known than the other transcriptions in this collection; even in its original guise for cello and orchestra. It is a single movement adagio as variations on two original Hebrew melodies. It is hard to beat the raw emotion of a cello playing dark, pensive music of this sort but the alto saxophone, as played by Creviston, comes close. This piece is actually a favorite of mine in the cello repertoire and I am very glad to have discovered this beautiful version.

There are but two works here written originally for saxophone; one of which is – perhaps – the best known classical saxophone piece; the Glazounov Concerto, written in 1934 for Sigurd Rascher. This esteemed concerto was one of the first of its kind for the then fledgling role of the alto saxophone in a classical orchestra context. The opening plaintive allegro leads seamlessly to a simply lovely andante featuring a rhapsodic melody line. The single movement work ends as if it has three separate movements; in a brisk and exuberant E-flat major. It is a showpiece, indeed, but one in which the line and feel can be lost if played too slowly at the beginning and too fast at the end. Creviston’s tempos are chosen well and offer a nearly perfect interpretation.

The other “original” in this program is the really obscure but wonderful Caprice for soprano saxophone by the early nineteenth century composer and violinist, Jean-Baptiste Singeleé; who was a friend of the inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax. Sax spent a lot of time and energy promoting his new wind invention as a classical instrument and eliciting works from colleagues and composers throughout his native Belgium. This very “Weber-esque” work is a joy to hear and, no doubt, great fun to play.

I heartily endorse this collection – and anything by Chris Creviston, honestly – to any saxophone player, any lover of truly great saxophone playing and anyone wanting to hear something a little out of the ordinary. He is an amazing performer and head of the saxophone studio at Arizona State University. His wife, Hannah Creviston, is also a wonderful performer who trained at SUNY Potsdam and remained on their faculty before also joining the staff at ASU. This supremely talented couple plays and records programs of this type all over the country and Chris is also a member of the equally stunning Capitol Quartet.

—Daniel Coombs