Listen to L'Incandescence

Recorded: 2008

Saxophonist Stacy Wilson and Pianist David Hughes formed the Outer Banks Duo in 2006. Together, they have performed internationally winning 3rd Prize in the Gaudeaumus International Interpreters Competition in Amsterdam, one of the premiere competitions for the interpretation of contemporary music, as one of the only American prizewinners in the history of the competition. The duo has performed throughout the United States, giving concerts and masterclasses at universities and concert series. They greatly enjoy the spontaneity of live performance and tried to capture that with this new album. “L’Incandescence”, the duo’s debut recording, presents some of their favorite compositions for saxophone and piano.

Bruno Mantovani composed L’Incandescence de la bruine (literally, “The incandescence of drizzle”) when he was not more than twenty-three years old, making it one of his earliest popular and successful works. It owes much in its inspiration to Berio’s Sequenza viib for soprano saxophone, which uses a continuous drone tone to create a static backdrop for a wild, improvisatory frenzy. In L’Incandescence there is no outside drone, but a continual emphasis on one note (a concert F) permeates the piece, beginning and ending it, nearly always present throughout. A superb example of “water music” written in the French tradition (compare pieces written by Debussy and Ravel), L’Incandescence explores not only drizzle, but also cascades of water, thunder and storminess, and everything in between. Mantovani’s use of slap tongue, flutter tongue and quarter tones for the saxophone give the music continuous timbral interest, mimicked by the piano with sudden points of emphasis and short, expressive swells.

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Michael Djupstrom’s Walimai is a highly programmatic work which employs a great variety of texture and range (both instrumental and dynamic) in order to tell a tale of epic proportions. The composer puts it in his own words: “Much of Walimai inhabits the dark, mysterious world that lies concealed beneath the rainforest canopy. This vast, timeless landscape is also the setting for the powerful short story of the same name found in Isabel Allende’s fascinating collection, Cuentos de Eva Luna. Allende’s work first provided the inspiration for this piece, and to some extent, suggested its dramatic and emotional trajectory, which traces a path from clarity and freedom through a terrible loss toward an eventual release from suffering and return to piece.”Allende tells the tale of an indigenous man (Walimai) who is responsible for the death of a woman and becomes possessed by her soul. The two fall in love, but this only increases Walimai’s suffering, and he knows that he must help her to leave the Earth by undertaking a ritual fast. During this process the pain of their separation reaches what Djupstrom describes as a “terrible intensity” before a final peace and calm marks the end of their metaphysical relationship.

Edison Denisov (1929-1996) was born in Tomsk, Siberia to a radio-physicist who gave him his unorthodox first name in honor of the renowned American inventor. Denisov studied mathematics at Tomsk University before deciding to dedicate his life to music. His aspirations as a composer were well-received by Dmitri Shostakovich, who gave him some instruction. While studying at the Moscow Conservatory Denisov digested the compositional techniques of many 20th-century composers, ranging from Debussy to Boulez and Stockhausen, in order to formulate his own unique style. He has commented on his desire to find unity in influences that are frequently considered polar opposites, being quoted as saying, “I am concerned not only with beauty of sound…but with beauty of ideas, as mathematicians understand it, or as it was understood by Bach and Webern…I find serialist procedures very promising, but in my work I strive for synthesis and use tonality, modality, aleatory and other expressive media.” Denisov’s Sonate for saxophone and piano utilizes avant-garde extended techniques and integral (total) serialism as well as artfully sectionalized phrasing and a heavy dose of jazz to create an overall fusion of “musical” and “mathematical” elements.. Denisov is one of a handful of composers to use serialism in this more integrated fashion, and the effect is quite striking. This flexibility and diversity of influence is especially apparent in the third movement, which seamlessly juxtaposes highly technical construction with improvisatory passages, and playful sentiments with those that can only be described as chaotic.. Between the flurry of activity in the outer movements the second movement stands out in stark contrast: a slow, mournful pitch-bending melody, based loosely on Russian folk music and written almost entirely for solo saxophone. Dedicated to and premiered by Jean-Marie Londeix in 1970, the Sonate quickly became a standard work in the saxophone repertoire and set the stage for many other composers to write for the instrument in a manner unbound by the “post-Les-Six” French style of writing which had been previously dominant.

These more avant-garde trends in writing for saxophone are apparent in the work of Christian Lauba (1952- ), a French composer and Professor of Analysis at the Bordeaux Conservatory. As a specialist in writing for the instrument his works have gained international fame. Lauba’s Neuf Etudes, commissioned in 1992 by Jean-Marie Londeix’s saxophone studio at the Bordeaux Conservatory, is the first book of a four-volume set of “contemporary studies. “ Jungle is the fourth work in Neuf Etudes and focuses on the technical difficulties of integrating rapid, extensive slap tonguing with legato phrasing. As in many other of the other etudes, Jungle requires circular breathing,, an extreme dynamic range and highly virtuosic use of the altissimo register of the saxophone.

Ida Gotkovsky (1933- ) was born in Calais, France to a musical family. She studied composition at the National Conservatory of Music in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Oliver Messiaen, among others. Gotkovsky has won numerous prizes and awards including the Grand Prix musical de la Ville de Paris. A prolific composer, she has written a number of works for saxophone. Variations Pathétiques was commissioned as the Paris Conservatory’s Solo de Concours in 1980. The work is dedicated to Daniel Deffayet, Professor of Saxophone at the Conservatory during that time. Gotkovsky explains that the word “pathétiques” does not describe sadness but “passion, emotion, force of power, tenderness, and delicateness.” Gotkovsky has commented on each of the six movements:

I.  Declamando con passione: “a melodic variation of the art of phrasing, of legato, of power and quality of sonority throughout the range of the instrument.”
II.  Prestissimo—Leggierissimo: “a variation of clarity, of staccato, and of opposition.”
III.  Lento—Rubato: “linear and fluctuating…going to the culminating point of pianissimo.”
IV.  Rapido—molto—legato—leggiero: “a variation of transparency and speed.”
V.  Con semplicità—anima: “…of simplicity, of very great difficulty in its pared down, contained, inward character.”
VI.  Prestissimo con fuoco: “a vortex of fire.”