Niels Bijl
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A virtuoso demonstration

The Australian Clarinet and Saxophone, 01 Maart 2008

Chant du Saxophone Ténor is the first Solo CD released by Dutch saxophonist Niels Bijl. This Super Audio CD (SACD) is devoted to the tenor saxophone and comprises a number of beautiful works written or transcribed for the tenor saxophone and piano.

It has been noted (including in the liner notes to this CD) that the tenor saxophone seems to have been ignored in the field of classical music, especially compared to the alto saxophone. This is a particulary puzzling fact given the popularity of the instrument among Jazz soloists. Bijl makes an eloquent argument throughout this recording that the tenor saxophone is worthy of closer attention from classical saxophonists, composers and audiences alike.

The opening track is a transcription of the Chant du Ménestrel, op. 71 by Alexander Glazounov. Originally for cello, this romantic work is played with sensitivity and beauty, the contrasting lyrical and forthright sections brought out through the interplay of the two performers. Other transcriptions are more familiar, including the Adagio und Allegro by Robert Schumann and the Songe de Coppelius by Florent Schmitt. Bijl and Dijkstra make a potent case for the tenor saxophone as a vehicle for transcriptions of serious romantic repertoire.

There are four original works for the tenor saxophone including the Concerto By Robert Ward, the Ballade for Tenor Saxophone by Frank Martin and the Poem by Walter S. Hartley. Perhaps, the most unfamiliar piece is the Evening song by Dmitri Smirnov, a work that is particularly beautiful in its range of sonorities, a virtuoso demonstration of the profound delicacy of sound that the tenor saxophone is able to produce.

The last tracks are the Concerto for Tenor Saxophone by American composer, Robert Ward. This work gives an opportunity for Bijl to show off his superb technique, flawless negotiating the technical passages of this lively attractive piece.

The performers on this CD form a close and sympathetic collaborative bond throughout the repertoire. The recording itself possesses a great dynamic range and excellent clarity from stat to finish.

I recommend this CD for all lovers of classical saxophone and especially to those who are interested in the tenor saxophone, an instrument that this Cd should assist to make more common on the concert platform.

James Nightingale

The Australian Clarinet and Saxophone, Volume 11, No 1, March 2008