During three months of the summer break, Breinton members’ cravings and anticipation for high-quality music was building up. For the long-awaited opening recital of our new season, saxophonist Huw Wiggin and pianist John Lenehan satisfied our thirst, treating us with their truly creative and magical sound world.
The partnership between Huw and John showed a most intimate musical dialogue in the first half, while in the second half they showcased their dynamic and bold approach.
In Marcello’s Concerto in D minor, Huw’s soprano saxophone sang the lovely tone and twirled along with the piano. The second movement’s breathtakingly beautiful melody was serene but played in a quietly contemplative manner, poured out by the musicians with the utmost care. Huw and John were lavish in their impromptu improvising passages in the third movement, which were fully appreciated by the audience.
After two short works by Schubert and Grieg followed De Falla’s Seven Popular Songs. The suite, originally composed for female voice and piano, now exists in many arrangements. I felt the arrangement we heard this evening certainly was one of the best. Each cancion came in a different texture and character, which was captured acutely by the duo, whose partnership was fulfilling – the haunting melody of Andalucian lullaby, Nana, was sensual, and the rhythmical and percussion-like piano accompaniment of Polo was striking and impressive.
Several years ago, I came across Huw for the first time, when I went to his recital at St Martin in the Field in London. It was Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion which I was totally sold on. I still remember, from the first note in, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Therefore, it meant so much to me that years later, this heart rending and nostalgic piece was recreated at Breinton. The touchingly bitter-sweet melody seeped through, as the piano accompaniment hovered beautifully and quietly yet with a hidden passion.
As if that was not enough, Sing Bird by Takashi Yoshimatsu lifted us even higher to another level. Lasting only five and half minutes, the piece totally took over the room. It had such power – by this I don’t mean ear-shattering volume, but a kind of dignified force to which you surrender – as Huw described, ‘You never hear anything like this, please enjoy’. The resonating affect of the saxophone’s soul-shaking sound played into the mysteriously dynamic piano lines.
More than a few audience members mentioned that they were amazed by how wide the saxophone repertoire could be, and what an incredible variety of sounds the instrument was capable of. From a concert promoter’s point of view, it is always a challenge to include a not-so-familiar instrument in a series, but tonight I was confident that it had worked beautifully.