Le Sacre du Printemps celebrates 100 years of shocking the world at the end of this May, and it's hard to find a more fitting tribute to its lasting contribution to arts and culture than the dedication and musicality of this performance by the Eastman Sax Project, or ESP. Their playing would have been noteworthy enough just considering the ingenuity of the arrangement by saxophonist and ESP member Dannel Espinoza, but this extraordinary effort becomes truly epic when you see that the sax ensemble is playing the entire piece from memory. Are you freakin' KIDDING ME?!
There's something else. You know you're listening to a good performance of an arrangement when the instruments take on the properties--the musical qualities--of the instruments from the original score. Such is the case here, as with the opening of the work, or the English horn and alto flute excerpts from "Ritual Action of the Ancestors" towards the end of the piece.
Many musicians (and music-lovers of all sorts) remember the first time they listened to Igor Stravinsky's musical invocation of pagan Russia for Diaghliev's Ballet Russe. As a teen, I was as frightened as I was compelled by the work; I would never be the same. This arrangement, true to that spirit of grit and intrepid artistry, has also left me changed for the better.
I have a bet with my wife Andrea that their youtube video of the performance will reach a least a million views in two weeks. It certainly deserves to.
next post: thoughts from the Michigan Philharmonic's "Koncert for Kids"!