- Improvisations (3), for tenor saxophone & piano
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Much has been written about the Second Viennese School, Anton Webern, and the philosophy and techniques behind his works. But what seems to be most important here is the listener's response to the music. Played by Marty Krystall on tenor saxophone with Peter Serkin on piano and Ida Kavafian on violin and Richard Stoltzman on clarinet, here are Webern's "Quartet Op. 22" and his "Three Improvisations." The quartet is simply two movements, one that is very random and another that has a lot of swing and movement. Much to Krystall's credit, though many of the notes are short, he plays them as legato as possible and does not shortchange them. The "Three Improvisations" feature just the saxophone and piano in what sound like jazz improvisations. One almost feels that the beginning of the first improvisation is a moody John Coltrane solo, while the second improvisation is a cleaner, more different character, spare and arguably a bit more tonal in the piano. The second half of the album is an entirely different universe, although musicologically speaking, it is not surprising to put Brahms on an album with Webern. Here, Krystall plays the clarinet with the Cooker Quartet. Brahms' "Quintet in B minor for clarinet and strings" is a darker, dense work in which a sense of seriousness pervades the piece. The opening movement is indeed exciting, thickly textured, with smooth, fluid strings and clean cello attacks. Krystall plays Brahms beautifully, with a solid fluidity in his clarinet sound. These musicians clearly have excellent technique; they only tend to run a bit low on energy as the movement progresses, but they resume it toward the end. The violins play in unison with dark passion: this is clearly no cheery, light allegro. The adagio features an interesting clarinet solo in the minor key. The piece concludes with Brahms' famed counterpoint, with a beautiful intertwining of clarinet and violin lines over somber, low strings. The ending is almost funereal, or operatically tragic. It is clear that the musicians enjoyed playing together, as their synchronization is undeniable. Brahms would have been pleased. ~ V. Vasan