Anders Paulsson (soprano saxophone)
Solitary Poems for Soprano Saxophone 
Theo Hillborg (soprano saxophone), Bruce Copley (didgeridoo)
rec. 2023, Musikaliska Akademien, Stockholm, Sweden
BIS BIS2644 SACD [86]

This very generously filled disc presents world premiere recordings of 23 works written for the saxophonist Anders Paulsson by various composers. For those of a cautious disposition, concerned that 86 minutes of contemporary music might not be their cup of tea, there’s no need to worry. These works, while modern, manage to be accessible and enjoyable without lacking any interest. 

These being world premiere recordings, there is nothing for me to compare these performances to, but I can’t imagine them being easily bettered. Paulsson’s playing is sensitive and imaginative, with plenty of colour and tonal variety. There is no evidence of struggle with any of the music and a lot of the works on the disc are slow to moderate paced pieces allowing him ample opportunity to demonstrate his clear, beautiful tone and excellent breath control. This is not an album of violent contrast or striking effects but one that flows almost seamlessly from one piece to the next. The very nature of the instrument and the contemporary idiom means that there are always going to be influences from other genres and in many ways this is closer in sound world to a relaxed, modern, solo jazz album than what many would expect from an album of contemporary classical music. I mean this with no disrespect to this recording, nor to jazz or contemporary music, it is a perfectly valid approach to the instrument and I found this an involving listen without feeling unduly taxed at the end of it. Sometimes this is all you want, and indeed need, from music. 

It is almost impossible for me to pick out highlights to ideally demonstrate the quality of the work here. Despite being the product of 22 different composers there is a very cohesive feeling to proceedings and in listening there are times when you don’t even realise one track has ended and another begun. Much of the pleasure comes from the playing, which is appropriately free and personal, never sounding studied or uninvolved. The Shared Solitudes 1 & 2, duets for two saxophones by Anders Hillborg, Later the Same Day, a two-tracked duet for Paulsson with himself written by Britta Byström, and the unexpected sound of a didgeridoo in Kjell Perder’s How Dare You? provide some welcome variety; the Shared Solitude 1being an especially beautiful interlude with its interlocking lines and flowing figurations. 

For those with a taste for the experimental and thought provoking works of the avant-garde, this might not be for you; there is nothing shocking or revolutionary here – but for those looking for a less intimidating introduction to the works of some contemporary composers and a very fine saxophonist, then this is ideal. The sound is, as usual with this record label, very fine and ideally intimate without sounding harsh or enclosed. 

Morgan Burroughs 

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