REVIEW OF “IDESTA” SAXOPHONE DUO Concert on 18 January 2022

Kezia Lovick-Jones amd Martha Cullen are both recent graduates of The Royal Northern College of Music and what talented musicians they are.They began the concert with Sonata No 2 from Telemann’s Six Canonic Sonatas. What a lovely sprightly round it was the music danced along, the soprano saxophones speaking to one another beautifully.

The concert continued with Gregory Wanamaker’s “Zippy!” In the introduction I thought I heard the word “chipmunk”, well that did it! Two chipmunks were chittering and chasing each other throughout the music with Martha on soprano sax and Kezia on Alto sax. It was great fun. What next? It was Marc Mellit’s “Black” played by Kezia and Martha on tenor saxophones; the imagination went off again and there was Pieter Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow, then there was the sound of sawing wood on the saxophones and the hunters all went home.

Next the girls played their soprano saxophones in Matthew Brown’s “A cottage on fire”. Did I hear screams, the fire engines? Then the roof fell in…

Kezia played a solo on her soprano saxophone and this time it was Graham Fitkin’s “Braemar”. That was a lovely piece of music and I’m sure I heard a hunting horn, the call of a stag and was that stag hounds giving tongue? It ended with what may have been an elegy for the stag.

Then we tangoed our way to the interval with three tangos by Piazzola as arranged by Kezia, played on the tenor saxophones with Kezia playing the Allegro Tangabile as a solo.

After the interval we had Handel’s Passacaglia as arranged first by Johan Halvorsen and then by the Idesta Duo, this was played on the soprano saxophones. This has two meanings and old Italian or Spanish dance tune or an instrumental musical composition consisting of variations usually on a ground bass in moderately slow triple time. This was a happy dance to the sound of bells, and let’s face it, Handel never disappoints and the arrangement was delightful.

Martha had arranged the next piece of music, which was by Bartok and was a selection from his 44 Duos for two violins, again played on the soprano saxophones.

Next, Martha played on her alto saxophone a Caprice en Forme de Valse by Paul Bonneau. I think you would have had difficulty in actually waltzing to this, I think that Bonneau had his tongue firmly in his cheek as he went off on a frolic of his own.

Rob Buckland the next composer is, according to the biographies in the Programme, one of the girls’ Professors of saxohone at the Royal Northern. It was a splendid choice and I particularly loved Fjord. Off I went to the fjords and mountains Norway with the music which was very atmospheric. I’m almost certain there was a sea eagle overhead and most definitely the hound music of a skein of wild geese. This was played on the alto saxophones as was Buckland’s next piece Mojito.

The concert ended with Roshanne Etezady’s “Glint” again played on the alto saxophones. In this music I heard a hurrying stream, a glint of fog was seen and surely that was a foghorn and the scream of gulls.

Kezia and Martha are clearly musicians of the highest order given the technique they displayed, not least in the rapid (and apparently accurate) fingering in the fast sections of the pieces they played. Plus their breath control was impressive and the sound they produced was clear and melodic, with no hints of breathiness (which can be a trait in some jazz saxophonists – I don’t dislike that breathiness, depending on the piece, but it’s more appropriate in jazz than in classical pieces, I think). They came to us with an impressive CV and were/are clearly highly thought of at RNCM.

This was an unusual and happy programme of music and everyone I spoke to said how much they had enjoyed the music and the evening.

CM and SB