From Cadenzas to Riffs: Amy Dickson’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’

Amy Dickson, the Sydney born saxophonist has released her 3rd solo CD Catch Me If You Can (ABC Classics 481 0118) a pleasurable demonstration of her prowess and the potential of this instrument.

Playing the alto saxophone, she has recorded three complete and substantial works, Escapades by John Williams (b1932), Concerto for Saxophone by Michael Kamen (1948 – 2003) and Local Hero Saxophone Concerto by Mark Knopfler (b1949), arranged by Jessica Wells. She performs with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey and augmented by an ensemble of rhythm and acoustic instruments for Knopfler’s music.

Dickson’s choice of repertoire and her playing opens up the possibilities for the saxophone in the modern concert hall as well as affirming its role in jazz and film music. She teases a fabulous spectrum of tones from her instrument and demonstrates her technical and stylistic mastery as she moves from cadenzas to riffs in the three filmic 20th century works.

Representing the epitome of ‘cool’, the saxophone has firmly straddled both the jazz and the classical repertoire since its invention around 1840 by the Belgian clarinettist and flautist Adolphe Sax. It was intended for use in orchestras and military bands. Despite a substantial classical repertoire in which the saxophone features as both solo and ensemble instrument, the presence of the saxophone over the last century and a half has been stronger in  jazz than in classical music. Dickson’s intentions are to develop both new and existing repertoire for the saxophone. 

The CD takes its title from the movie for which John Williams wrote the music Escapades. It tells the real life story of the impostor Frank Abagnale Jr. the music tells the story in the style of film noir with snapping fingers and hissing; the third movement brings in motifs from world styles as the chase for the culprit goes international.

Michael Kamen’s 1/2 hour saxophone concerto in 3 movements is amongst his substantial output of 11 ballet scores and a concerto for electric guitar as well as scores for Someone To Watch Over Me, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Three Musketeers, X-Men, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Licence to Kill, the Lethal Weapon series, and the first three films of the Die Hard series.

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of Local Hero, Dickson performs a four movement arrangement of the score by Jessica Wells which recreates the astral beauty of the music.

Dickson won the Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year Competition in 2004, having previously studied in London where she took the Jane Melber Scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music with Kyle Horch, and the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with Arno Bornkamp. She became the first saxophonist to be awarded the Gold Medal at the Royal Overseas League Competition in 2004, and the Prince’s Prize in 2005. She made her concerto debut at 16 performing Pierre Max Dubois’ Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra with the Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Henryk Pisarek. She later won the James Fairfax Australian Young Artist of the Year award. On her 18th birthday she recorded Dubois’ Divertissement with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Harding.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©


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