An eclectic programme of music from Old Ardinian Andrew Canning and saxophonist Anders Paulsson

It was a great pleasure to welcome Old Ardinian, Andrew Canning (organ) and his saxophonist colleague, Anders Paulsson to Ardingly for the second Music@Ardingly concert of the series. The combination of organ and saxophone might seem an unusual partnership, but it works very well and makes for a most pleasing union. Paulsson and Canning have built up a fine reputation as duo recitalists and have played together all over the world.

They presented an eclectic programme that covered many genres including transcriptions of movements from J.S. Bach’s Sonata in E minor, BWV 1013 and clever arrangements of jazz standards including Duke Ellington’s In a sentimental mood. Indeed, the mood was set from the outset with a charming Lullaby for solo saxophone by Paulsson.

The duo live and work in Sweden so it was appropriate to include a piece by a Swedish composer. Otto Olsson’s Jul (Christmas) for organ solo was a delightful piece in a chorale-prelude style that incorporated the Christmas melody ‘how brightly shines the morning star’. After a virtuosic account of Bach’s Courante in G minor, BWV 1013 from Paulsson, the duo concluded the first half with two pieces by Argentine composer, Astor Piazzolla. These were dances that used very catchy ostinato rhythms throughout and at the apex of a long dynamic build-up we could finally hear the soprano saxophone at its most impressive. The timbre of this magnificent instrument is quite unique and is effectively a ‘super-hybrid’ of four instruments amalgamating the mouthpiece of the clarinet, the shape of the oboe, the mechanics of a flute and the brass of a trumpet.

The second half of the programme was an all Gershwin affair, beginning with a wonderful rendition of Nocturnal Blues, an arrangement featuring the main melodies from Gershwin’s jazz-influenced symphonic poem An American in Paris. The jazz idiom is not normally associated with the organ but Canning’s masterful accompanying in many styles proves what a versatile instrument it can be. A suite of songs from Gershwin’s famous opera Porgy and Bess followed and included famous songs such as Summertime, Clara, Clara and It ain’t necessarily so. The duo have a great understanding of each other and the ensemble throughout was immaculate.

A highlight for me was the encore which was as brilliant as it was simple – a wonderful arrangement by American organist Harry Huff and Paulsson of the spiritual Amazing Grace