Jesse Dochnahl begins recital season with saxophone performance

Kicking off the recital-ridden term with a bang, Instructor of Music Jesse Dochnahl performed on Thursday, March 28, spanning a wide variety of saxophone repertoire. Collaborating with a range of instruments, Dochnahl’s recital showcased a number of chamber ensembles as well as solo performances by Lawrence faculty and friends.

Opening the recital was a piece for soprano saxophone and piano entitled “Gate,” by contemporary composer Graham Fitkin. Performed with Assistant Professor of Music Michael Mizrahi, the duo transitioned through moments of quiet delicacy and intense, intervallic patterns. In the minimalist style, Dochnahl created peaks and climaxes through repetitious patterns, outbursts of flourishing runs and dynamic contrast, representing the more modern branch of saxophone repertoire.

Second on the program was Florent Schmitt’s “Legende,” again featuring Mizrahi on piano and Dochnahl on alto saxophone. Reaching back to the traditional bank of repertoire, this piece is French and of the Romantic character, laden with rich chords in the piano and long singing phrases in the saxophone. Dochnahl captured the essence of the Romantic style with the slower tempo, singing vibrato and rubato lines.

The third piece featured the odd combination of baritone saxophone and bass flute, played by Assistant Professor of Music Erin Lesser. The work is entitled “Strohbass” by Marcos Balter, referring to the low range of the voice that has a rumbling, growl sound, therefore perfect for its instrumentation. This piece never exceeded a volume greater than a voice and was made of the effects possible by the saxophone and flute such as key clicks, slap tongue, flutter tongue and overtones. No saxophone recital would be complete without a piece like this one, contemporary and filled with “saxophone tricks.”

Then the audience was treated to the unique duo of alto saxophone and harp, played by Dochnahl and Erin Brooker, a harp student and fellow musician of Dochnahl’s at University of Illinois. They performed an arrangement of nineteenth century composer Camille Saint-Saens’ “Fantaisie pour Violon et Harpe, op. 124.” Though not originally written for the saxophone, this arrangement exposed the saxophone’s vocal qualities and ability to blend in with the sparkling harp.

Concluding the program was the entertaining and humorous “Tag: A Theatre Piece” by Eric Stokes, composed to mesh saxophone and the theater. Dochnahl performed on alto saxophone and was accompanied by recorded alto and baritone saxophone sounds and between the three voices, acting out the game of “tag.” Noises would emerge from the speakers, causing the performer to run away, hide behind the piano or react with noises. Both recording and performer used “saxophonic noises,” playing at each extreme of the horn, growling, hissing or squealing to tag one another, until finally the performer went running off the stage.

It was a night of truly sharing the joy of music. Sharing the stage with fellow performers, sharing a wide range of musical genres and sharing laughs with the audience all contributed to an enjoyable and fun evening of music. As a saxophonist myself, I can’t help but be entertained by the antics of my professor and the “saxophone jokes” sprinkled throughout the colorful music for saxophone. All in all, it was a great beginning for a term filled with saxophone recitals.