Jordheim’s recital features contemporary works

Doris Kim

Steven Jordheim, saxophone professor at Lawrence University, exhibited music’s capacity for remarkable cohesion in three unexpected pieces last Sunday at his faculty recital.
The program consisted entirely of contemporary works, beginning with “Cantilene et danse” (Eychenne), composed for violin, alto saxophone, and piano. The piece started with smooth moving phrases and engaging dynamics. Jordheim fluently droned in and out of the trio with his captivating vibrato in his long, low tones. While the three instruments played very differing parts, the audience was mesmerized with the unexpected clashing and meshing between them.
The musicianship was undeniable. Despite their contrasting lines, the performers all moved together in unison, power, tone, timing, and exuberance – resulting in a lost hair from the violin bow. Their energies combined and grew to an unanticipated, beautiful melody. While there were only three musicians, the layered rhythms and full melodies made the stage feel packed.
“Klonos” (Swerts), meaning muscle cramp or strong contraction, was the second piece. It was a duet between alto saxophone and piano. This piece, as the title suggests, was much more demanding on the alto saxophone. The piano began with broken brash chords, booming and menacing in its syncopated rhythms. The saxophone, in a higher register than in the preceding piece, came in with fast rolling lines. With impressive ease, Jordheim played demanding melodies with deliberate dynamics and intensity. The melodies complimented each other and moved faster and higher, as the rhythmic lines would build more intricate, confusing, and wild. It ended like a beating heart on the piano and with racing and pacing notes on the alto saxophone.
“Facade,” consisting of 21 poems by Edith Sitwell recited with instrumentation composed by William Walton, concluded the recital. It is a tongue-in-cheek piece, parodying works of famous composers with abstract poetry and quaint accompaniment. It is notorious for the confusion it brought to audiences when first performed. The music and poetry is playful, which was unexpected from two artists from the Victorian era.
Andrew Mast, the conductor, hoped the audience would recognize “the humor and poignancy of Stillwell’s poems with marvelous miniature masterpieces by Walton. Each setting is very accessible yet sophisticated. You can almost feel Walton winking at us as we perform. ”
The poetry was recited with great attention to articulation. The words – some lengthened, accented, or sung – seemed to dance with the music. The instrumentalists and narrators performed in impressive harmony and displayed a unique and unlikely performance.