PREMIERE OF HALIM EL DABH`S NEW SAXOPHONE CONCERTO
"Scored for alto saxophone and string orchestra the concerto touches upon egyptian folk sources, dance rhytyms and ruminative gestures. The saxophone is a doleful, charismaitc hero, especially as played with seamless and penetrating beauty by Greg Banaszak."
— Don Rosenberg
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 21, 2007
"A Saxophone Tour De Force"
— The New York Times
"From the downbeat of the first number it didn`t take long for Banaszak to live up to his reputation; he played with a brilliance and flair that excited the audience!"
— Ronald Bennett
The Odessa American
"Mr. Banaszak`s recent concerto CD offers a very appealing range of saxophone repertoire.
Greg Banaszak is a splendid performer with dazzling virtuosity and exceptional control in all registers, and the Polish National Chamber Orchestra is a first rate professional ensemble under the skillful baton of Maestro Jarmolowicz."
— Dwight Oltman
Music Director of the San Jose Opera
Laureate Conductor of the Ohio Chamber Orchestra
"Greg Banaszak`s musicianship and sense of esthetics as well as his love of his instrument and music comes through in every phrase.
Mr. Banaszak does a great service to the saxophone and all of his colleagues with this concerto CD because it makes us all more aware of the strength and beauty of the repertoire."
— Bert Lucarelli
International oboe soloist
Professor of Oboe, The Hartt School
Founder, "Lucarelli International Oboe Competition"
"What a gorgeous tone!"
— Leonard Slatkin
Musical Director of Detroit Symphony Orchestra
"Greg Banaszak is one of a select few "cross-over" musicians that works successfully in both the classical and jazz worlds!"
— Karel Paukert
Department of Musical Arts
The Cleveland Museum of Art
"Greg Banaszak`s tone throughout his Concerto CD represents a more rich, hybrid style, leaning toward the beefier tone of American players while maintaining a very French, sweet vibrato."
— American Record Guide
"One of today's leading saxophone virtuosos"
— Steve Metcalf, The Hartford Courant
"Banaszak's performances are idiomatic, fluid and sensitive to the individual works' needs"
— Herman Trotter, The Buffalo Evening News
"American saxophonist Greg Banaszak gives a very "classical" performance with his smooth, round, and fluid tone quality creating the most graceful pianissimos. That brings a warmth and refinement to the central movement of the Dubois Concerto, the quiet running passage toward the close of the movement being a particularly magical moment. Elsewhere Banaszak displays a spectacular technical command of the instrument, his rhythmic security in the mischievous outer movements of the Ibert adding to the tongue-in-cheek humor. He gives a silky account of the Glazunov, and revels in the complexities of the Villa-Lobos. In the cadenzas he demonstrates his full-quota virtuosity, at the same time avoiding any hint of brashness. Indeed throughout the disc Banaszak is intent on elevating the saxophone to a symphonic instrument , avoiding the jazzy tonal quality we so frequently encounter in this repertoire."
— David Denton, Fanfare Magazine
"Destined to be great in both Western classical music and African- American music"
— Jazz Legend Saxophonist Jackie Mclean, The Hartford Advocate
"Banaszaks' Saxophone Concerto CD displays secure technique and conscientious musicianship"
— Wilma Salisbury, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Saxophonist extraordinaire wows audience at Stan Hywet Concert Hall"
— Akron Beacon Journal
"There is nothing more beautiful then the combination of
Saxophone and orchestra. This 2-CD set, titled Roman«s
for Saxophone and Orchestra, features the superb saxophone
soloist Greg Banaszak, with the Beethoven Academy Orchestra.
Banaszak performs on both alto and soprano saxophones with the
Beethoven Academy Orchestra under the direction of conductor
Piotr Borkowski. This is probably the first double CD for classical
saxophone and orchestra.
Greg Banaszak has an excellent sound on the soprano and alto
saxophone. On this CD he blends extremely well with the strings and
demonstrates a special gift for spinning musical lines into a sort
of musical fantasy. The ease with which musicality pours from his
saxophone fills the listener with excitement and wonder. Truly he
breathes the beauty of life into each of his melodic phrases.
Aria is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written for saxophone,
composed by Eugene Bozza in 1936. Greg leaves no note in Aria undiscovered,
imparting all the feeling humanly possible into
this elegant selection, which is the last. track on CD 2. Banaszak's
version of Aria is an absolutely beautiful performance that will
definitely leave you breathless.
Jumping to the last cut of the first CD, to Heitor Villa-Lobos'
Bachianas Brosilieras no. 5 for saxophone and Celli, we witness
another composition that is one of the most beautiful pieces written
for saxophone and strings.
The second to last cut on the first CD is Wojeich Kilar's Vocalise, which
was the predominant theme in Roman Polanski's film The Ninth Gate. 'The
vocal theme has been taken over via the voice of a soprano saxophone,
exquisitely performed by Greg Banaszak. In addition to strings, the soprano
line is supported by both a piano and harpsichord. This is a powerful
piece that grabs the listener's emotions and doesn't let go
until the end. Banaszak's performance of Vocalise leaves one with a feeling
that something of extreme emotional significance has occurred.
Preceeding Vocalise is Aria by Subaram Raman. This too is a
moving piece for saxophone and strings that places strong emotional
demands on the performing artist. Greg Banaszak delivers
another beautifully emotional perfonnance of Rama's Aria that is
The opening selection on CD I, Largo for Soprano Saxophone
and Orchestra by Joanna Bruzdowicz, truly sets the pace for this
double CD recording. Also represented are David Morgan with
Three Vignettes for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra; Alan
Hovhaness' Concerto for Saxophone and String Orchestra; and
James Leatherbarrow's Don Quixote in Love for soprano saxophone and orchestra.
Romamces for Saxophone and Orchestra is an incredible
double CD recording with a collection of works with which Greg
Banaszak has raised the bar for saxophone excellence via his performances.
This saxophone soloist, the conductor, the orchestra,
and the composers have come together into a fantastic listening
— Paul Wagner
The Saxophone Journal, August 2008
"The Concerto for soprano saxophone and Strings (1980) belongs to an altogether different world, where Hovhaness as aiming for ever greater simplicity, even naivety, of expression.
The style (especially in the slow movement) could almost pass for Dvorak.
It is the most substantial work to this 2 Cd set: the Three Vignettes by the American composer David Morgan are also worthwhile and stimulating."
— Bret Johnson
Tempo Magazine — Cambridge University Press, October 2008
"Bruzdowicz, a pupil of Messiaen with a gift for Gallic-accented melody, launches this collection with her Largo. It's from her film music for Jacquot de Nantes (1991) - Rachmaninov's Vocalise out of Fauré and with a decidedly sombre curve. Away from the soprano saxophone to the alto with Raman's gentle Aria which was inspired by the Bozza Aria. Raman was a pupil of Paul Chihara - who himself wrote a saxophone concerto (1981) which was premiered by Harvey Pittel in Boston. Raman's Aria moves in dove-gentle tones between Barber and Vaughan Williams. Kilar's Vocalise, with solo parts for harpsichord and piano, unfolds at unhurried leisure. It has the mien and plaintive droop of the quieter parts of Nyman's Where the Bee Dances. The Villa-Lobos is well enough known from the soprano original - a pity we do not get the whole thing. Leatherbarrow was born in England but is how studying in the USA. His Don Quixote in Love is an offshoot from a work-in-progress, tone-poem The Last Dream of Don Quixote for soprano saxophone and full orchestra. The work heard here is tender and melodic with a Delian susurration over which the saxophone slowly glides and courses. Gleaming strings melt their way from phrase to phrase. The sound recalls an intensely romantic take on the ?seagull music? from Watership Down. Bozza's equable and feminine Aria is the oldest piece here. It was dedicated to Marcel Mule. The apt orchestration is by Hunter Ewen. While Bozza cannot quite match his likely models, the Ravel and Fauré Pavanes, this is certainly an agreeable and moodily pleasing piece.
David Morgan (not the same David Morgan whose Contrasts recently featured on Lyrita), based at Youngstown University, writes for both the jazz and classical worlds. The triptych that is the Three Vignettes was written specially for Greg Banaszak. The first vignette is The Secret of the Golden Flower and moves without effort between Vaughan Williams and an Oriental sway: fast, punchy and meditative. Consolation has the contours of a primitive church hymn moving through a mist of melancholy. The final First Light makes play with Latin-American dance. Elements of rumba and tango are married to 1950s-style commercial sophisticated light music. Morgan's writing is delicate and luminously orchestrated. An undemanding delight.
The Hovhaness concerto was written for the New England Conservatory, then performed once by the Chatauqua Symphony and forgotten. The composer's widow assures us that like many works of its vintage the solo line was written with her high coloratura voice in mind. This seems completely plausible and by all means listen to the later Poseidon CDs for further proof. The three movement concerto pleases with its high sinuous solo line and breathing string figuration. The second movement is a surprise: its instrumental solo melody suggests sentimental British music-hall rather than Eastern esoterica. The composer also draws here on a dashing Mozartian effervescence which only once reconnects with Hovhaness's core lingua franca. The finale carries the archetypical title Let the Living and the Celestial Sing. It returns us to the composer's 'campground' with delicate pizzicati, great wheeling yet grounded angelic paeans and sinuous foregrounded solos. These are lent airy movement by surprising interactions with the warm string choir. Intriguingly, even in this last movement, Hovhaness admits elements of sentimentality to interact with the devotional.
The helpful notes are by Dr Myron Schwager and provide us with pretty well everything we want to know about this music. It's a shame we don't get birth years for some of the composers and dates of some of the compositions. Also regrettable are persistent little errors such as Hovhannes for Hovhaness and Rubenstein for Rubinstein. These are small flies in the ointment in what is a pleasingly consistent collection for those wanting melodic tonal music for saxophone and orchestra."
— Rob Barnett
"As an invention of the romantic period, the instrument is saxophone is a naturally expressive instrument: and here, the American saxophonist Greg Banaszak performs several neo-romantic works with the Beethoven Academy Orchestra of Cracow, Poland. The program is a mixture of old and new, with well-known 20th Century composers
(Villa- Lobos, Hovhaness, and Kilar) and contemporary composers who may not be familiar (Joanna Bruzdowicz, Subaram Raman and James Leatherbarrow).
All of the works are superbly written, well played, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Banaszak plays with a beautiful sound, perfectly controlled, with a touch of the French school, which fits the music and blends well with the strings.
The Beethoven Academy Orchestra offers a gorgeous backdrop; the accompaniment is sensitive, yet retains the warm and lush string sound necessary to the music.
If one is looking for saxophone outside the box, so to speak, this is a good recording to have."