Amy Dickson: Glass
Given the saxophone’s importance in early minimalist scores and its central role in defining the unique sound of Glass’s ensemble during the 1970s, the composer has written surprisingly little for the instrument since then, even less so in a solo capacity. All of which has meant that the soprano saxophone virtuoso Amy Dickson had to think beyond the box in tackling Glass’s music. She first arranged his Violin Concerto 10 years ago, and her impressive 2008 recording with the RPO under Mikel Toms makes another appearance on this disc.
Strangely enough, around the same time that Dickson was learning how to circular breathe to play Glass’s concerto, the composer was completing his three-movement Violin Sonata. At first glance, it’s a strange inclusion. Even by Glass’s standards, an inauspicious opening – a clichéd chord pattern circling agitatedly around G minor, E flat major, F major and D major – promises little. However, Glass extends and combines patterns derived from this rather unremarkable sequence, increasingly building momentum throughout the first movement by adding and layering scale-like flourishes.
The performance is aided by cool, precise playing from Dickson. Crisp articulation is also evident throughout the dancelike final movement of the sonata, too, reinforced by bouncy, funky disco-style octave bass-lines on the piano, played with real zip and verve by Catherine Milledge. The pianist’s contribution to the two arrangements included from the soundtrack to The Hours (‘Morning Passages’ and ‘Escape!’ – the latter recycling the composer’s Metamorphosis 2) is also telling, with the saxophone often supporting the piano. One only feels the absence of the violin during the sonata’s second movement, where the saxophone fails to match the expressive weight and intensity captured on violinist Maria Bachmann’s riveting performance on ‘Glass Heart’ (Orange Mountain Music, 4/11US). However, Dickson’s highly nuanced and skilful interpretations on this disc amply demonstrate that her musical versatility extends beyond mere ‘arrangement’ of Glass’s music.