★★★★

Amy Dickson shows off her astounding virtuosity in a programme of ‘local’ works for alto and soprano saxophones inspired by natural and imaginary worlds.

Island Songs is one of Peter Sculthorpe’s last compositions, drawing on a mix of wartime popular song and Aboriginal chant. The first half, Song of Home, features brooding strings, shimmers of percussion and a sea of oscillating violin melodies, over which Dickson’s pure saxophone soars with a plaintive elegance. The second part, Lament and Yearning, blends Sculthorpe’s love of ancient lands with his sadness for modern climatic dangers. 

After the long, smooth gliding of Island Songs, Dickson harnesses an entirely different energy for Brett Dean’s Siduri Dances, managing the brutally jagged and dissonant melodic language with a vibrant ferocity. The Sydney Symphony’s strings conjure an effectively disturbing sonic environment led by Benjamin Northey (who also conducts the Sculthorpe). 

The multi-movement Full Moon Dances is a concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra exploring Ross Edwards’ ‘Maninya’ style with echoes of ritual music from both Western and South-East Asian cultures. Dickson’s dazzling artistry is on display throughout, in particular in the second movement, which jets forward with some unashamedly raucous and ‘ecstatic’ orchestral jiving. Here the SSO plays under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya.