Amy Dickson

Island Songs

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This album by Australian saxophonist Amy Dickson was originally issued by Australia's ABC Classics; it was picked up by Sony Classical and given cheesy graphics that for American listeners of a certain age may bring to mind the Bo Derek film 10. That is the end of the list of complaints about this extraordinary release, which offers music that will be unfamiliar to nearly all but Australian listeners (and perhaps many of those) and yet is compelling from beginning to end. This is contemporary virtuoso music of the highest order. Two of the three works here were written for Dickson herself, and they exploit every conventional capability of the saxophone (they don't enter the realm of extended technique, but the sound palette is so varied, you might think they do). The third work, The Siduri Dances of Brett Dean, is a transcribed work originally for flute and orchestra; Dickson is inventive indeed in devising saxophone equivalents for various flute sounds. All three works have programmatic significance. The titular Island Songs of Peter Sculthorpe was one of the last works of the late Australian composer; it includes the Aboriginal influences found in his other works and is endlessly novel in the ways it incorporates the saxophone into drone textures. The final Full Moon Dances: Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra is perhaps the most extraordinary of all. Recorded live, it generated enthusiastic applause at the end of its exuberant Bartókian finale. Sample the slow movement "Sanctus" for trance-like textures that show just how subtle Dickson can be in her pianissimo mode. The Sydney Symphony under a couple of conductors offers able support, and all in all this is an extraordinary release from Australia.

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