This disc encourages the listener to relish the versatility of the saxophone, presenting us with the instrument in both classical and jazz modes. On the one hand, we have the Suite by Hans Gál enjoying the saxophone’s sonorities within the traditions of Germanic chamber music, and Hindemith’s Sonata, which avoids the excesses of Romanticism with a pared-down, rigorous style. On the other, we have the Hot-Sonate by Erwin Schulhoff and Werner Heider’s Sonata in Jazz, both rich with syncopations, bluesy harmonies, swing rhythms, and the spirit of the jazz club. Then there’s Edison Denisov’s fusion of the two worlds in his Sonata, which combines jazz and avant-garde techniques with thrilling results.
The works on this disc span a period of 40 years, from 1930 to 1970, and each seems to pose a question about the saxophone. Should it to be contained by good manners and formal decorum, or allowed to imbue a recital the freedom of jazz? The responses of these five composers owe something to their political and cultural circumstances, but can also be seen in more general terms as responses to the phenomenon of the saxophone in the 20th century as an icon of a new and popular musical culture.
Guido Bäumer and Aladár Rácz first met whilst living and working in North Iceland in 2001. They formed Duo Ultima, and have been collaborating on an array of programmes together ever since, performing together at numerous festivals and in major concert halls. Their repertoire seeks to examine the saxophone from different angles, with programmes focusing on French music, Impressionism, the saxophone as virtuoso instrument, and, more recently, expanding into a quartet (with accordion and double bass) to explore the music of Piazzolla.