The following review is taken from the Winter 2022 issue of Clarinet & Saxophone magazine. For more reviews, news, and features from the single-reed world, join to receive our quarterly magazine and other membership benefits.



Corvus Consort,
Ferio Saxophone Quartet,
Freddie Crowley (dir/arr)
Chandos Records

Although the idea of coupling voices with saxophones has been explored several times in the past, from Jean Françaix’s use of a quartet to accompany a chamber opera in the 1950s to the Hilliard Ensemble’s work with Jan Garbarek in the 1990s, this collection of choral works makes one wonder why the combination hasn’t been used more often. The Corvus Consort is a vocal ensemble of twelve young singers directed by Freddie Crowley, who is also the architect of this collaboration with the Ferio Saxophone Quartet. The repertoire is based around music from the renaissance and baroque eras with works from composers including JS Bach, Heinrich Schutz and Giovanni Gabrieli interspersed with four contemporary works which reimagine music from those periods.

All thirteen of the early pieces have been very skilfully arranged by Freddie Crowley, using the saxophones either as a replacement for an organ or instrumental ensemble, or to take over some of the vocal lines in the purely choral works. Exploiting the doubling abilities of the Ferio Quartet, he doesn’t always stick to the SATB format and varies the combinations of saxophones to suit the music as well as occasionally using a trio rather than the whole group. The blend between the two groups is wonderful and the sensitivity of the Ferio players combined with the constantly changing textures provides continuous interest and ensures that they never sound out of place or inappropriate.

Unsurprisingly, much of this music is meditative in nature so it is a delight to hear the saxophones change gear completely to provide dazzlingly brilliant accompaniment to Bach’s ‘Weil du mein Gott und Vater bist’ from his Cantata No.118, this time in an SSAB line-up. Of the four contemporary works only Owain Park’s ‘Miserere after Allegri’ was specifically conceived for these forces. This is a very interesting deconstruction of the elements of Allegri’s famous but much adulterated masterpiece and Park gives the saxophones considerable prominence, allowing them to step up from a purely accompanying role. Equally arresting is Roderick Williams’ ‘Ave verum corpus’ re-imagined, based on the celebrated work of William Byrd, which creates an evocatively ethereal sound world. Concluding with a briskly paced rendition of the piece popularly known as ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’ by Bach, this recording comprises superb performances from both ensembles who combine to create a unique and beautiful album.

Tim Payne