When Adolphe Sax invented the family of instruments that carry his name, he had military bands in mind. Classical composers kept the saxophone on the fringe, and recitals are still rare. At the Wigmore, fans were outnumbered by supporters of the Anglo-Greek charity Life Action Trust, for which the event was raising funds.
Theodore Kerkezos looked at the audience, sighed, seemed to be about to give a speech, then nodded curtly to the pianist, Francesco Nicolosi. What were we in for? Debussy, for a start. His Rapsodieisn't often heard, yet it is a fine piece in the idiom of La Mer, lyrical and increasingly agitated. It respects the contralto-like timbre and ability to play softly of the alto sax.
Likewise Kerkezos, who played to the music's symphonic gathering of tension as well as its understated virtuosity. He kept to the alto sax all evening - it has a strong repertoire, centred on the superb French woodwind tradition. Paule Maurice, on the strength of her Tableaux de Provence suite, knew wind instruments inside out. Mostly straightforward, compact and neat, it unexpectedly opened up in a tender piece called "From the Alyscamps".
André Jolivet was only fitfully at his best in a short Fantaisie-Impromptu, whose ballad-like intro seemed to echo Charlie Parker before dissolving into a less convincing bluesy section. Then the French strand turned to arrangements of Ravel and Milhaud, the latter's sax version of Scaramouche being the more effective.
The exotic element centred improbably on Paul Hindemith. For the duration of its brief, tantalising prelude, his Sonata promised to draw out an unfamiliar languid dimension to this composer, but he was soon back to chugging along as normal. Jules Demersseman, a French-influenced Netherlander, gave Kerkezos his virtuoso showpiece in the shape of operatic, flamboyant variations.
The most recent piece was Luciano Berio's unaccompanied Sequenza - another high point for the performer, who showed exceptional judgement of extreme quietness and, again, a fine sense of where the music was going. Nicolosi's solo spot was a hushed, rapt performance of Debussy's Clair de Lune, and accompanied elsewhere with poise, pace and discretion.Reuse content