As the Artistic Director of Soirées at Breinton I am sometimes faced with situation where I need to take risks. When I planned this series, I had been harbouring the idea of introducing a new instrument to our audience. I just did not know which one! Then by coincidence, a music agent I had been in contact with for a different musician suggested Amy Dickson. I had almost no knowledge about the saxophone, but there and then I immediately made up my mind. This Saturday soiree by Amy Dickson and her piano partner Martin Cousin confirmed my decision was the right one.

The world of the sound of the saxophone was a gorgeous revelation. From the first note into the Saint-Saëns’ Sonata, the audience was immediately drawn in. How beautiful it was, when the simple, rustic melody of the first movement Andante was introduced and then evolved with the simple yet most expressive tone of the saxophone, while every step was decorated with the equally beautiful and poetic piano part. I thought it was superbly executed and revealed the truthful duo partnership.

Amy had obviously put much thought into creating this recital programme. The first half was comprised by works of French composers: Saint-Saëns, Ravel, Milhaud and Decruck. She shared the story behind this programme, which was received by the audience with great interest. The next piece, Ravel’s Pavene pour une infant defunte, is simply the most heart-touching piece ever written. I’ve listened to it in a piano solo and orchestral form, but this saxophone and piano version – what a tremendous emotional beauty it brought. The saxophone tone was pure and serene and the piano affectionately warm. The subtle serge and dynamics of the piece was truly moving.

The instrument was changed to the alto saxophone, and it was time for the jazzy, rapid and fun Sacramouche. The rhythm and light-heartedness created by the two intertwined instruments lifted the spirit.

The next composer Decruck was totally unknown. In fact, no one in the audience had heard of her. But what magical music it was – just as Amy described it. It was dramatic and soulful, particularly the fourth movement, I thought was mysterious, nocturnal and enchanting.  Amy’s excellent breath control allowed long flawless phrases and her lip control allowed us to appreciate different textures, from crystal clear to gently muffled sounds. 

Astor Piazzola’s Tango No. 4, performed just by Amy, was astounding. Her vibrato, with the pleasant pitch and emphasis, brought a dreamy and completive state of mind.

Composer Philip Glass will celebrate his 80th birthday in January 2017. To commemorate this occasion, Amy arranged his Violin Sonata for the saxophone. What a privilege to witness this world-premiere moment! The slow second movement was hauntingly beautiful – I thought the arrangement cleverly left the traits of the violin, expressing even double stops and octaves that are impossible with woodwind instruments. A stormy marathon of notes in the finale fired up and left everyone breathless, leading up to a grand climax.

The acoustic of the room worked a wonder. The sounds of Martin’s piano and Amy’s saxophone blended excellently; the produced sounds seemed to have bounced off against the fully opened piano lid and projected straight towards us. The duo-ship of Amy and Martin was very natural. It was obvious they intently listened to and were thoughtful of each other. Later I found out that today was almost exactly their 10th anniversary since the day they first performed together.