Peter Graham originally wrote In League With Extraordinary Gentlemen for solo Euphonium and Symphonic Wind Band in 2008, and has created this new version for alto saxophone soloist Tim Watson.
The work is in three movements: The Time Traveller; The Final Problem; The Great Race. Movement I is based on HG Wells’ Time Machine, movement II on an Arthur Conan Doyle story where Sherlock Holmes fights Moriarty for the last time, and movement III follows Phileas Fogg on the final hectic lap of his journey. The scoring is sumptuous, hugely varied and never less than captivating. The Band of the Royal Marines, Collingwood, gave an excellent premiere performance under the direction of Nick Grace.
Soloist Tim Watson showed a mature, well developed sound and complete technical control. The work converts very successfully for saxophone, and the composer demonstrates his knowledge of the instrument in producing attractive flowing passages within the natural range, and also highly effective altissimo lines. There is a subtle use of digital delay in the slow central movement, which, gratifyingly, is used for colour enhancement rather than technological wizardry. The ensemble harmonic layering on top of the soloist’s delay material is very delicately handled. Tim Watson’s sense of ensemble in the fast moving first movement showed him to be at ease as a concerto soloist, and he dealt with all the rapid dialogue sections between soloist and band with panache. The soloist was lightly amplified throughout, but this was very subtle, and projected a natural saxophone sound.
The cadenza in this movement incorporated very effective altissimo writing, as well as some use of multiphonics, which were colourful and integral to the music. The slow movement, musically based on a Swiss folk tune, weaves in and out of the electronic effects, and allows the soloist to play charming and effective melodic material above a subtly moving band accompaniment. The finale, once more featuring terrific atmospheric scoring, was handled in an authoritative manner by Tim Watson, leading the performance with subtle phrasing at speed, and delivering a very convincing final cadenza. This was an excellent performance by both soloist and band, and this new work should create an impact as an outstanding addition to the saxophone solo repertoire.