In Circles by Amy Dickson
I used to have little interest in classical saxophone repertoire, until one day, in Paris, I was walking through a deserted passageway, and I heard a most beautiful, soulful sound reverberating around me. It was a busker, playing what I think was Debussy. I’ll never forget that moment when the saxophone became, for me, something more than just an annoying ‘Baker Street’ earworm; it became an instrument of total wonder. Amy Dickson is the kind of saxophonist who can turn a sceptic like me into a believer – her transcendental performances of transcriptions and compositions for her instrument are virtuosic. And, as the winner of numerous international awards, she has more than earned her place as a classical musician of the highest renown.
Dickson’s latest recording, In Circles, features repertoire old and new, some composed for saxophone, and some arranged for it. One such arrangement is the traditional ‘She moved through the fair’, in haunting duet with William Barton’s didgeridoo. I recently saw Barton perform, and he too was somewhat of a revelation. His playing is brilliant, and his voice is powerful and otherworldly. What a good match, then, for Dickson’s own inimitable sound.
James MacMillan’s saxophone concerto provides total contrast, both in scope and texture. It is a rare treat to hear the instrument featured in a concerto setting, especially considering the genre predates the saxophone, and far less solo classical repertoire exists for it than for other instruments.
Folk music is the underlying theme of this seemingly disparate program, and Dickson’s interpretation of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Six Studies in English Folk-Song exemplifies her instrument’s chameleon-like ability to straddle several genres. Although appealingly nostalgic, the music is still very much in the classical mould, and the saxophone’s contemporary timbre is a surprisingly good fit for the recognisable folk melodies.
An enjoyable exploration of folk music and saxophone repertoire.