Chart-topper Amy Dickson reclaims the joy of sax for classical fans

 

It is the brassy musical upstart, whose siren tone indicates the arrival of a femme fatale. But the saxophone is finally coming of age after an Australian musician topped the classical chart with an album that returns the instrument to its orchestral roots.

Dusk & Dawn, featuring works by Chopin, Philip Glass and John Tavener, arranged for saxophone and performed by Amy Dickson, a Sydney musician now based in London, has claimed the number one slot in the UK Classical chart.

Ms Dickson, 31, is leading an orchestral revival of the saxophone. Its creation in the mid-19th century came too late for the instrument to find a role in the established symphony order.

Instead the sax became an integral element in the rambunctious big band jazz music which dominated dance-floors and later enhanced numerous pop hits, providing the famous riff for Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street and the wine-bar sophistication of Sade’s Smooth Operator.

Ms Dickson, who studied at the Royal College of Music in London, is happy to embrace the traditional “sultriness” of the sax. However, contemporary composers are returning the instrument to the forefront of classical music, as its founder Adolphe Sax intended.

“I’m thrilled to be number one,” she said. “It’s a very interesting time now because so many composers, like Mark-Anthony Turnage, are writing for the sax.”

Ms Dickson, 31, who began playing the saxophone aged six, has performed works from composers such as Steve Martland, the notoriously atonal Harrison Birtwistle as well as Turnage’s "Two Elegies Framing A Shout", for soprano sax and piano.

She has previously arranged Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto and a movement of Tavener’s "The Protecting Veil" for soprano sax, recording them with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Her new album features interpretations of Fauré’s "Pavane" and Chopin’s "Nocturne".

“I hope it’s a breakthrough,” she said. “The sax is being used more in orchestras because contemporary composers are writing for it and there are more saxophonists who play well these days. It’s growing exponentially.”

The saxophone was an instrument born out of time. “Had it been created a little earlier, it might have been incorporated into the changes Wagner made to the symphony orchestra,” said Ms Dickson, who has an endorsement deal with Armani and performs at the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room this month.

“Berlioz was a big supporter but it didn’t get used as much as it should have. It was associated with military bands. Then it became popular in jazz.”

The sax attracted a set of clichés along the way, including its association with smoky dive bars and female sensuality “It is a very candid instrument but there are so many different tone available and the range of expressiveness is enormous,” Ms Dickson said.

The rehabilitation means Lisa Simpson will no longer be thrown out of music class for honking on her horn. “When I play concerts so many people come up after and say they’ve never the instrument played like that before,” Ms Dickson said. “It’s a beautiful instrument when played well. The sax followed me everywhere when I was growing up, from Baker Street to M People.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star