Saturday, March 11, 2017

James Houlik Plays the Tenor Saxophone

The market for classical saxophone recordings seem to be limited mostly to other saxophonists. The saxophone is an instrument that has never captured the imagination of the classical music audience in the same way strings or even other woodwinds have. The saxophone didn't even exist until the 1840s, and it was pretty much ignored by composers for the rest of that century. And even afterwards, the composers who wrote for the instrument were not the "major" figures, for the most part. Well, Debussy wrote a piece for saxophone and orchestra, but his heart wasn't really in it, and it's far from his best work.

The status of saxophone in the classical world is kind of a shame, though, because it can be a beautiful, expressive instrument when playing composed art music. James Houlik is perhaps the foremost exponent of the classical tenor saxophone, an instrument that is even less common in the classical world that its smaller cousin, the alto sax. Houlik's sound is rich and cello-like, and he has an impressive command of his instrument. His 1975 album for the Golden Crest label (which specialized in chamber music) is as scarce as hen's teeth, as I discovered when I misplaced my copy for over a year and tried to find a replacement. (I finally discovered it in the wrong sleeve.)

Because of the record's rarity and musical excellence, I'm posting mp3s of each side below. The excellent piano accompanist is Paul Tardif.

Side one

Side two

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