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Sax man's sound surprises symphony audience

George Kaufman
The Oshawa Times

Okay, I'm convinced, and so are quite a few other music lovers after Sunday night's Oshawa Symphony concert.

I've long been a fan of the big, sexy saxophone sound in jazz, big band and rhythm and blues music; and I've loved classical music almost as long. But, until Sunday night, for some reason, I've never been exposed to the two together.

Now, thanks to Ted Brankston, I'm on my way out to the record store to pick up some albums of classical saxophone music. The Oshawa doctor made a lot of believers Sunday night when he performed Alexander Glazunov's Concerto for Saxophone and Strings. The full, spirited sound of the sax - gliding effortlessly from low, throaty growls to high, peppery yelps, caught a lot of us by surprise.

Occassionally a violinist or pianist with a sense of style can really put on a show, but classical concerts are normally pretty laid-back, even formal, occassions. But Brankston's saxophone, with its ability to swing from gritty to mellow, introduced me to a whole new side of classical music.

Knowing everyone concerned will take this in the right way, I can say that it was the "sexiest" classical performance I've attended it some time. The sounds he played often brushed so close to jazz, or R and B, that more than once I had to stop myself from leaping up and shouting out "Right on!", "Get down!" or some other inappropriate musical vulgarity.

The 13 string players providing accompaniment deserve a good part of the ovation that brought Brankston back to the stage, as they supplied a nicely balanced, full-bodied backdrop in what must have been a real departure from the kind of music they're generally called upon to do.

The rest of the program was equally satisfying, with the full orchestra turning in two fine, rousing renditions of Rossini's head-long Overture to Semiramide and the lyrical Symphony No. 6 by Dvorak.

The playing of the horns and woodwinds in this orchestra - already solid - continues to improve dramatically, as demonstrated again in these two pieces.

In the opening Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the strings lacked a little of the spirit and lightness that can place Mozart's famous throwaway music among the most enjoyable of his prolific output. As well, the violin section tended to occassionally overpower the rest of the strings in a piece that requires some soft playing.

But overall, the symphony's second concert of the year, sponsored by Clinic Pharmacy, was a great success and marked another enjoyalbe step forward as this orchestra grows better and more confident with each outing.

The third concert presentation of the season will be held Sunday, Nov. 30, at St. George's Anglican Church and will feature Paul Kuchar in Mozart's Concerto for Horn No.4.

To purchase Ted's debut CD
"I Want To Live" click HERE

"...one of the best classical saxophone recordings I've ever heard!"
David Gibson, Editor
Saxophone Journal 2004

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