Composers: Pessard, Sculthorpe, Falla, MacMillan, Grainger, Brahms, Barton, Vaughan Williams, Edwards
Performers: Amy Dickson, Daniel de Borah
Catalogue Number: ABC Classics 4817925
In Circles is saxophonist Amy Dickson’s homage to Australian and European folk traditions. It isn’t the type of album you can enjoy at leisure; it’s the type that contributes to a catalogue of Australian music and would do well as an educational tool. I was immediately taken aback by the mixing, which represented the timbre of the instrument in a way I’d not expected: it was echoey and French horn-like, missing those golden upper frequencies for which the saxophone is so distinct. This heavy acoustic made it challenging to hear the subtle use of vibrato, and detracted from the mood of the opening Pessard Andalous; though, the melody of Sculthorpe’s following Djilile – with William Barton on didjeridoo – felt evocative and atmospheric.
Falla’s Jota, featuring Daniel de Borah’s jovial touch on piano, was an overt aesthetic departure that led into a series of traditional songs; after which the MacMillan Saxophone Concerto (with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra) features in its world premiere recording. Broad saxophone tones and spacious strings give this a nostalgic feel – one that seems to hark back to the land
Of course, an album of Australian folk music wouldn’t be complete without Grainger, and his spritely Shepherd’s Hey features here. The Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No 4 sounded heavy and mismatched with the instrument, but the Vaughan Williams’ Six Studies in English Folk Song was exquisite.