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FringeReview UK 2018

Victoria Puttock and Mark Dancer, Saxophone and Piano

Victoria Puttock and Mark Dancer, Saxophone and Piano

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: Chapel Royal, North Road, Brighton


Low Down

Saxophonist Victoria Puttock and pianist Mark Dancer offer a trio of saxophone works. Paule Maurice’s Souvenirs de Provence is the best-known, followed by Amy Quayt’s Light From Sanis, and Paul Creston’s Saxophone Sonata, a composer best known for his symphonies.


To blaze out this Heatwave July, what better cool than the saxophone of Victoria Puttock and Mark Dancer’s piano recital?


They’re an established duo and paly distinctly unestablished music, three pieces two of them gratifyingly by women.


Unknown save for the first piece. Paul Maurice (1910-67) died too early and her reputation’s kept alive by this and a few other works.


Think of Les Six by the Med: Poulenc, Tailleferre & Co. Or a close contemporary Jean Francaix. Neo-classical, but more tuneful, less brittle – written for the sax the lines have to be longer, cooler, languorously sultry, even romantic but kept at bay from sentimentality. Tableaux de Provence (1948-55) known in its orchestral guise in wonderful CDs of French saxophone music (BIS CD 203, 1357). However it’s most often performed in this duo reduction.


The last of its five movements got added because its dedicatee Marcel Mule wanted to show off. It starts with a ‘Farandelle pour les jeunes filles’ (in its French translation from Spanish) which is breezy, ardent flirty and a breezy way in to its more reflective sections. Then the first of two reflective pieces, ‘Camsoun per ma mio’ a portrait of a gypsy girl ‘La Boumaino’ which tropes exotic tangs catchily to a mild French sexiness, and then ‘Dis Alytscamps, l’amo souspire’ an amorous sigh, but far more. If we’ve been treated to genre before – and memorably too – this piece is altogether on a different level. Suffused with sunlit melancholy to cast stark shadows, its chromatic slant melismas haunt you long after the virtuosic ‘Lou Cabridan’ jaunts and struts its exhilarating stuff across the alto sax’s range. Puttock’s clearly in her element.


Amy Quayte is so obscure she’s not even on the net. Born 1953, she’s a typical American academic composer of tuneful wind and brass genre, who in 1982 wrote a piece on Sirius but called it by an ancient name. Light From Sanis might have been better entitled Light From Sirius but it’s a tripartite piece both melodic and ingratiating for the instruments. It’s attractive but at first hearing not on the level of the Maurice and I’d need to hear it again. It’s a lovely idea, and the central section haunts a little.


Finally New York-born but Italian Paul Creston (1906-85) is the best-known of these composers, on the Naxos and other labels for his symphonies and other orchestral works. So this Saxophone Sonata’s wholly new to me. As was the fact that e was a virtuoso pianist who probably heard like Rachmaninov and write the piano part accordingly. Dancer really has the technique to burn off anything here and this is a thrilling and genuine partnership of equals. Puttock also enjoys the chromatic writing the slips into bluesy regrets and out again into brash sunlight. Again it’s not quite as memorable as the Maurice, though Creston is otherwise a memorable symphonist. But there’s a lot to it ad I think its thew and snap will really grow when you have the chance to google it on YouTube (everything bar the Quayte is there…).


An exhilarating recital, from a first-class duo who plan to return in January. Look out for them when you need winter blues blown away by summer ones.