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Full of Life

Compositions by M Zachary Johnson
prèmiered at Steinway Hall
and reviewed by ANNA FRANCO


M Zachary Johnson held a world première of his compositions for saxophone and piano at Steinway Hall, New York, USA on Saturday 13 May 2006.

With paintings from The Steinway Collection hanging in the background, performers Brian Horner, alto saxophone, and Elizabeth Wolynec, piano, opened the concert.

The first three pieces, Scherzo for Alto Sax and Piano (2002), Serenade for Alto Sax (2001), and 'Solitude' for solo piano (2001), had their beginnings when Mr Johnson was a student at the University of Michigan and the Mannes College of Music, New York.

In his 'Notes on the Notes', Mr Johnson attributes inspiration for Serenade to playwright Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac and his feelings for Roxanne. When asked what other influences there were, Mr Johnson responded that Brahms was his favorite composer: '... what makes me worship him is the supreme integration of intelligence and passion, of structure and romantic expression.' His other favorite composers include Chopin and Saint-Saëns. Additional literary influences include Alexander Dumas and Ayn Rand, novelist and philosopher: 'I am deeply in love with Ayn Rand, study her work, draw an immeasurably great inspiration from her novels, and live by her philosophy.'

Literary inspiration is not the only unusual feature of Mr Johnson's compositions. He composes for piano and saxophone in a definite Romantic style; this is not just a tendency but a consistent personal style that united all of his compositions into a vibrant concert.

The fourth piece performed was the world première of the Grand Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (2006) in three movements (Adagio, Scherzo, and Finale: Theme and Variations), completed just weeks before the concert. It was nicknamed the 'Lexus Sonata' because part of it was composed in a car, a Lexus. The final work was the world première of the Quintet for Saxophones and Piano (2005), performed by the Mannes Saxophone Quartet and Kyle Adams, piano, with Javier Oviedo, soprano saxophone, Eric Osman, alto saxophone, Christina Monaco, tenor saxophone, and Keith Krindler, baritone saxophone.

M Zachary Johnson. Photo © Eugene Parciasepe Jr
M Zachary Johnson. Photo © Eugene Parciasepe Jr

The compositions express a full range of emotions: the saxophones evoking tender, warm, playful, and noble feelings, while the piano is lyrical, powerful, and struggling. The music was full of life, reflecting the glow of the city it was performed in.

Copyright © 1 June 2006 Anna Franco, New York City, USA




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