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Brighton Year-Round 2022

St Nicholas Evelyne Harrison and Zhanna Kemp Saxophone/Piano Recital

Evelyne Harrison and Zhanna Kemp

Genre: Live Music

Venue: St Nicholas Church, Dyke Road, Brighton


Low Down

Evelyne Harrison and Zhanna Kemp gave a Saxophone/Piano Recital at St Nicholas. Entitled ’60 Years of Saxophone Music’ it was more like 70, with pieces ranging from 1924 to 1992.


Evelyne Harrison and Zhanna Kemp gave a scintillating – in some respects unique -Saxophone/Piano Recital at St Nicholas. Entitled ’60 Years of Saxophone Music’ it was more like 70, with pieces ranging from 1924 to 1992.

The solar plexus of classical saxophone is essentially the 1920s-30s, particularly in Paris, Berlin and the US, with a few works in the UK too, one being the Saxo-Rhapsody by Eric Coates. Harrison is a sovereign performer and the south coast is lucky to have her, and not know it. It’s good to she’s teamed up with the fine Russian pianist Kemp, whose versatile presence in accompanying songs and leading piano diets as certainly livened up the scene.


Erwin Dressel (1909-72) Bagatellen (1938)

Dressel worked in Berlin throughout his life, it seems (at least he was born and died there), writing for radio and other mediums, though the saxophone wasn’t hugely in favour with the Nazi regime, so quite where this attractive work was written and performed is a mystery.

Taking its name from Beethoven’s short pieces and other homages, it’s in fact a four-piece suite with a slight neo-baroque tang to it. Starting with a ruminant Elegie, I moves to a perky characteristic Scherzo, a plangent aria and a characterful Gigue which Harrison commands effortlessly.


Seymour Burns (Sioma Berengarten) Valse Romantique (1929)

Polish-born Seymour Burns isn’t the only Berengarten to have changed his name to burn – the Cambridge poet Richard Burns has recently reverted to Berengarten. He’s famous for The Doctor’s Secret also written 1929, which seems to have been a film score. This valse, which might come from  it, is a wonderfully evocative use of the sax, rich dream-like and reaching out for romance. Memorable.


Jasha Gurewich Seguidilla (1896-1938) (1924)

Jasha Gurewich wrote extensively for the Sax, including a Concerto Op 102, which suggests his short life was packed with achievement. As indeed it was. Sharing the same name as Jasha Heifetz, he was named the Heifetz of the Sax. This piece is more romantic – again – than virtuosic seeming, but is a strong and again memorable piece, and makes you want to hear more of his work, out there on YouTube.


William Grant Still (1895-1978) Incantation and Dance (1942)

Known as the Dean of Black composers, Grant still’s a composer not heard enough in this country, though his works are increasingly available on CD (Naxos lead the way). This work’s a seriously-worked melodically more complex and sophisticated work – its title suggests mid-century contemporary classical and this is the work you need t grasp a couple of times. It releases its energy in the Dance.


John Dankworth (1927-2010) Domnerus (1950)

For this arrangement Harrison not only transposed instruments she’s stuck to the score but added her own swing, and the result’s infectious and oh so brief.


Dave McGarry Dreams of You (1992)

McGarry’s a film composer – and all there is on him suggests ‘an American musician, singer, voice actor, music producer, and composer.’ Certainly this floats by scenically, a modern take on saxophone use in films, a kind of hommage to it.


Paul Desmond (1924-77) Take Five (1959)

Again, though Take Five is far more familiar Harrison and Kemp filled the space normally taken by the Dave Brubeck Quartet and even big band versions, to produce a fine take on this signature cool piece. Harrison’s playing here Is again so infectious it’s only being British we don’t get up and dance to it – and being in a church, perhaps.

The concert’s exhilarating and not too long – there’s an inevitable lack of variety in some of the smaller pieces, but Harrison’s researched some gems and finds her voice perfectly. Kemp really ensure the piano’s not too retiring, but not overwhelming either. It’s a rare line-up, and a delight.