In Circles with William Barton didgeridoo • Daniel de Borah piano, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, cond. Nicholas Carter.
Amy Dickson returns with her most personal album yet, exploring connections between classical composers and the folk music of their homelands.
From the red dirt of the Australian desert to the rolling green hills of the Scottish Highlands, In Circles unapologetically celebrates folk music and the tremendous influence it has had on music around the world and throughout history.
As Dickson says, “Folk music breathes the very identity of a country, and in troubled times can be a source of solace, over and over again. At the core of folk music lies a beating heart of humanity to which we return again and again. The creation itself of this music requires personal, family and social connections – in a word: kinship.”
This sense of community and togetherness is amplified by the collaborations on this album. With celebrated composer and didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton, Dickson explores music by Australian composers Ross Edwards, Peter Sculthorpe and Barton himself. With acclaimed pianist Daniel de Borah she traverses Europe, from Brahms to Falla, Pessard and Vaughan Williams. And Nicholas Carter and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra explore archetypes of traditional Scottish music in a world premiere recording of Sir James MacMillan’s Saxophone Concerto, written specifically for Dickson.
Dickson continues, “In today’s frenetic digital age, folk music offers us a refuge: the enduring simplicity and nostalgia embodied in this music provides timeless sanctuary from the relentless surge of modernity.” ABC Classics and Amy Dickson invite you to take a deep, relaxing breath and join us at our table, our fireplace, and with our family.
Amy Dickson’s first album, Smile, was released in 2008. Gramophone remarked that she “played with such sophisticated rapture . . . Amy Dickson is a player with a difference – an artist who may well appeal to listeners who have virtually written off the saxophone as being part of the world of popular dance music and therefore not of great interest . . . She plays very songfully, is often gentle and restrained, at times sounding like the chalumeaux of a clarinet. But she can rise to a passionate climax, as in Danza de la moza donosa, or slinkily respond to Debussy’s La plus que lente. She is very lucky to have an accompanist-partner with the musical affinity of Catherine Milledge who provides a perfectly balanced backcloth, one that the ear picks up as being pleasurable in its own right. How atmospherically she prepares the way for Dickson’s beguiling entry at the beginning of the recital when she seduces the ear with Chaplin’s title number. One of the most fascinating duets here is Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, where the piano plays a series of gentle but pointed triplets, like falling rain, while the soloist ruminates, an unforgettable combination. This is a disc of unusual musical interest: the programme includes Rachmaninov, Fauré, Elgar and even Finzi whose Elegy is particularly effective when played with such sophisticated rapture.”
It was her second recording that attracted international acclaim. Glass, Tavener, Nyman was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Cadogan Hall and includes her own transcriptions of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 1, and John Tavener’s The Protecting Veil, as well as Michael Nyman’s Where the Bee Dances. The recording was selected as Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine, March 2010. Of the recording, BBC Music Magazine noted: “In some ways, Amy Dickson’s arrangement for soprano saxophone actually works better than the original…The fast passages sound crisper; the bubbling arpeggios and long slow notes have new varied textures thanks to the saxophone’s reedy depth; the insistent solo interjections in the finale now pierce the orchestra; and the occasional violin-specific techniques, such as multiple stopping, are translated with no musical loss.” Gramophone wrote: “Tavener’s work provides the centrepiece, however. Dickson’s sustained saxophone soars high above the orchestra for extended periods – maintained by impressively controlled circular breathing – illuminating the carpet of string sound lying below… Dickson’s impressive playing bears witness to the instrument’s hidden depth, breadth and versatility. Highly recommended.”
This recording was followed by the Brit-award-winning and GRAMMY-nominated Dusk and Dawn, of which The Telegraph wrote: “She has the technical finesse to play just about anything.” In 2013 the AIR award-winning Catch Me If You Can was released, and featured the saxophone concerti of John Williams, Michael Kamen and material from Mark Knopfler’s score to the film Local Hero, arranged by Jessica Wells, and recorded with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. In a 5-star review by The Australian, it was written: “drawn from Williams’s score for the film Catch Me If You Can, Escapades is a finely crafted concert work of retro cool jazz style that welds the saxophone closely to the orchestra. Dickson plays its snaky solos and infectious Joy Ride finale with exuberant authority. More cinematic in sweep, Kamen’s Concerto is a bold, rugged and melodically inspired work that Dickson interprets with uplifting strength and impressive improvisatory flourish. With Knopfler’s Local Hero concerto, she branches out into rock-style playing with conspicuous success.” This was followed by the 2014 film-inspired album A Summer Place, on which Chris Walden’s arrangement of Moon River was nominated for a GRAMMY award.
Amy Dickson’s recording with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Island Songs, was released in the United Kingdom in January 2016. It showcases her passion for commissioning new repertoire and met with international critical acclaim.
An all-Australian disc of new music, it comprises Peter Sculthorpe’s concerto of the same title, which was written for Amy; Ross Edwards’ concerto Full Moon Dances, which was also written for Amy and recorded live at the Sydney Opera House; and Brett Dean’s Siduri Dances, which was arranged in collaboration with Amy. Limelight have written, “Dickson’s dazzling artistry is on display throughout… Island Songs is one of Peter Sculthorpe’s last compositions, drawing on a mix of wartime popular song and Aboriginal chant. The first half, Song of Home, features brooding strings, shimmers of recession and a sea of oscillating violin melodies, over which Dickson’s pure saxophone soars with a plaintive elegance. The second part, Lament and Yearning, blends Sculthorpe’s love of ancient lands with his sadness for modern climatic dangers. After the long, smooth gliding of Island Songs, Dickson harnesses an entirely different energy for Brett Dean’s Siduri Dances, managing the brutally jagged and dissonant melodic language with a vibrant ferocity. The Sydney Symphony’s strings conjure an effectively disturbing sonic environment led by Benjamin Northey (who also conducts the Sculthorpe). The multi-movement Full Moon Dances is a concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra exploring Ross Edwards’ ‘Maninya’ style with echoes of ritual music from both Western and South-East Asian cultures. Dickson’s dazzling artistry is on display throughout, in particular in the second movement which jets forward with some unashamedly raucous and “ecstatic” orchestral jiving. Here the SSO plays under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya.”
Amy’s most recent album “Glass” was released in January 2017 and went straight to Number One in the UK Specialist Charts. It is a ground-breaking recording of some of Philip Glass’s most iconic music, transcribed for saxophone by Amy herself, in celebration of Philip Glass’s 80th birthday.
In 2019 Amy will be releasing an exciting new disc which presents brand new contemporary music alongside favourite time-honoured songs, featuring some very special guests.
Additional recordings include Carl Davis’ suite from the film score for Hotel du Lac which Davis arranged for saxophone, piano and orchestra (Carl Davis, Melyvn Tan, Philharmonia Orchestra 2010); Holbrooke’s Saxophone Concerto (Royal Scottish National Orchestra & George Vass 2011); Richard Rodney Bennett’s Seven Country Dances; This Land from Hans Zimmer’s score for The Lion King; Willow’s Theme from James Horner’s score for Willow; Somewhere Out There from James Horner’s score for An American Tail.