Music of the Commonwealth, New Music for Saxophone and Piano


  • Artist(s): David Howie, Michael Duke
  • Composer(s): Aris Antoniades, Brenton Broadstock, Pradeep Ratnayake, Ruben Zahra, Stephen Chatman, Stephen McNeff
  • EAN Code: 7.46160913148
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Piano, Saxophone
  • Period: Contemporary
  • Publication year: 2021
SKU: C00481 Category:

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The Commonwealth consists of fifty-four countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. With 2.4 billion people in the Commonwealth, what is it that ties so many together as members of this association? In 2018 through a generous grant from the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, HD Duo embarked on an ambitious cross-cultural project that focused upon composers of the Commonwealth. The ultimate aim of this venture is to commission, perform and record one composition from each of the countries represented. This initial project focuses on the collaboration with six premiere composers from six different Commonwealth countries. Each composer was commissioned to contribute a chamber work for saxophone and piano that was then workshopped, premiered, toured and recorded for this CD. The principal aims of this project are to enhance and strengthen links between countries of the Commonwealth, greatly increasing cultural awareness and understanding. Through the music on this recording listeners are invited to immerse in the incredible diversity of culture, enjoying points of common experience as focussed through the lens of chamber music.

Six Preludes

Commissioned by The University of Sydney for the HD Duo (Michael Duke and David Howie), this piece was composed in 2018 especially for a project entailing the commissioning of composers from all 53 Commonwealth of Nations countries and subsequent recordings and performance tours. Given the nature of the project and the extraordinary talents of the performers, I attempted to compose an expressive and technically challenging work—a unified intense expression within each of the brief, stylistically contrasting preludes.

Stephen Chatman
One of Canada’s most prominent composers, Dr. Stephen Chatman is Professor of Composition at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. A multiple Juno nominee, he has received many composition awards, including 2005, 2006 and 2010 Western Canadian Music Awards “Classical Composition of the Year”, 2010 and 2012 SOCAN Jan V. Matejcek New Classical Music Awards, three B.M.I. Awards, Dorothy Somerset Award, and the 2001 BBC Masterprize short-list. In 2012, Dr. Chatman was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. His works, published by E.C. Schirmer, Oxford University Press, Boosey & Hawkes, Earthsongs, Frederick Harris, Dorn, and T. Presser, and have sold 500,000 printed copies. His choral music is frequently performed and his orchestral music has been performed by the BBC Symphony, Berlin Radio Orchestra, CBC Radio Orchestra, Montreal, Edmonton, Sydney, Seoul, Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco, Winnipeg, Quebec, St. Louis, Calgary, Detroit, Dallas, and New World symphonies.

The Man in the Wind and the West Moon

This work was commissioned by Michael Duke and David Howie for their world tour in 2018 and was funded by the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. It is a fantasy in three continuous sections and takes its title from a line in an early Dylan Thomas’s poem, And death shall
have no dominion. This is a lyrical poem on the subject of immortality in a three stanza structure echoed in the musical work. The music opens with a brooding, hesitant piano before melodic fragments from the saxophone lead on to a more established theme. A calmer section featuring piano introduces mid-range saxophone timbres. A short recap of earlier material introduces an agitato Part 2 where the piano and sax exchange ideas in a bouncy, almost sardonically jolly, spikey way. Part 3 is a calmer world which the piano introduces by weaving shifting harmonic textures (marked ‘gently rocking’), soon joined by the saxophone’s lyrical high register voice. This song-like idea is taken up by the piano and then the sax again before the music gradually begins to relax. There is one final lyrical moment from the saxophone before the registers darken and begin to fade. We end with a series of low, rich piano chords and echoes of earlier melodic fragments.

Stephen McNeff
Stephen McNeff was born in Ireland and grew up in South Wales, where his inspirational teacher awoke an interest in music. After studying composition at the Royal Academy of Music, his career started by working in theatres throughout Britain, followed by a period in Canada where his posts included composer-in-residence at the Banff Centre. Recognition came steadily; until the early 2000s McNeff’s name would be known mainly in theatre circles through his film noir operatic version of The Wasteland (1994), his many scores for the Unicorn Theatre (including a highly successful Beatrix Potter Suite in 2002), or among windband fraternities for Ghosts (2001). However, from the première of his opera for young people Clockwork in 2004, based on Philip Pullman’s book, at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, and his appointment the following year to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as the first Royal Philharmonic Society/Performing Right Society Foundation Composer in the House, his reputation has gone from strength to strength.

Boiling Clouds

The up-beat character of this composition stems from a syncopated bass pulse (3+3+3+3+2+2) that is evident throughout the work. This obsessive bass line is often challenged by more irregular material in the higher register which creates a contrast to the predictable ostinato. Another important character of this work are the percussive clusters in the lower register of the piano which jolt the music erratically. A soft, yet turbulent prelude introduces the music. In this opening section, the composer presents the palette of his materials disguised under a diffused dynamic, before the true nature of the music is released. Half way through the music the soprano saxophone unleashes an unruly solo featuring piercing melodic contours, fast virtuoso patterns, runs, shrieks and shrills. This solo quality is picked up again towards the end of the piece in a cadenza, leading the music to an explosive finale.

Ruben Zahra
Ruben Zahra (b. 1972) is a composer committed to contemporary music and interdisciplinary expression. His music carries fragments from a variety of musical cultures. Influences from classical, rock, jazz and ethnic music are interwoven within the tapestry of his contemporary work. Ruben Zahra has been invited to present concerts in major festivals all over Europe as well as in Egypt, Tunisia, USA, India, South Africa, Australia and Hong Kong. In 1994 Ruben Zahra graduated from the University of Malta in Music and Theatre Studies and was awarded a scholarship by the Italian Cultural Institute to further his studies in composition with Azio Corghi at the National Music Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome. While in Italy he studied electronic music with Giorgio Nottoli and film music with Ennio Morricone. In 2000 he moved to the USA for a master’s degree programme in composition at Mills College in Oakland, California. In 2002 he moved to Los Angeles and spent two years working for the Hollywood film industry as a soundtrack composer. Since 2004 he has been based in Malta and works internationally as a freelance composer.


Nostos is the Greek word used to describe one’s homecoming. I thought it would be an appropriate title for this piece, since the work is heavily influenced by some of the Greek folk rhythms and idioms that I grew up with in my homeland, Cyprus. These folkloric elements provide an integral part of my musical identity and continue to inspire me. The work is divided into three movements, the first and third movements are written for Alto Sax. and Piano, while the second movement is written for Soprano Sax. and Piano. Movement I: This movement is based on the Cypriot Zeimbekiko rhythm. The dance is in essentially in 9/4, which I further divided into 4/4 and 5/4 for the sake of the pulse. Movement II: This movement is dedicated to my late Great Grandmother Maroulla, a remarkable person who will always hold a very special place in my heart. It should feel tender, with a sense of nostalgia. The climax should be piercing and painful. Movement III: This movement is based on another folk dance – this time originating from the balkans – called Leventikos. This is originally a cyclic dance: everyone holds hands in a circle and they dance together. The movement is meant to be virtuosic and should be performed at a very fast tempo.
Aris Antoniades
Born and raised in Limassol, Cyprus, Aris Antoniades creates works for everything from Symphony Orchestras to Jazz Big Bands including the original soundtrack for the Cannes listed short-film Not Now (2013). His concert music is heavily influenced by his Greek heritage: merging Hellenic folk dance rhythms with Byzantine ritual chants. Mr. Antoniades’s works have been performed across the United Kingdom, China, Greece, Cyprus, Australia and the United States. Arranging credits include a variety of different styles and genres and his concert and marching band arrangements have been often performed by the Military Music Corps of the Cypriot National Guard. A recipient of the Fulbright award, Mr. Antoniades completed his undergraduate and Masters degree in Classical Composition at Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Mark Stambaugh, receiving the Provost’s Award for Academic Excellence.


“Hammerblow by hammerblow
Until the last day of life.
No ray of morning light;
No sunrise of hope”
Henrik Ibsen 1828-1906

Brenton Broadstock was born in Melbourne, Australia in December 1952. From 1982-2007 he was employed in the Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne where he was Professor of Music and Head of Composition. In 1999 Brenton received the prestigious Don Banks Award from the Australia Council for his contribution to Australian music and in 2014 he received an AM, Member of the Order of Australia, in the Australia Day Honours for “significant service to music as a composer, educator and mentor”. He has won numerous prizes for composition, including the Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize, 2 APRA Awards and 2 Maggs Awards; his music has been performed at many national and international festivals, including the BBC Proms; by all of the major orchestras in Australia, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in Finland and at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. His output includes 6 symphonies, concertos for tuba, piano, euphonium and saxophone; several orchestral works, a chamber opera, 3 string quartets and much chamber, choral and solo music.

Airs of Lanka

Pradeep Ratnayake received his Bachelor’s degree and the masters degree from the University of Visvabharati, Santiniketan, India with his specialization on the sitar. He was involved in research work in the Music Department and the Computer Music Department at Columbia University, New York, from 2008 to 2010 on a United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright scholarship. Since returning to Sri Lanka, Pradeep’s work has been in academia as well as in the field of performing arts, where he has tried to popularize Indian classical music as well as an alternative avantgarde music that fuses the Western, Indian and Sri Lankan traditions. He works as the Head of the Music Department in the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. He is also a film music director in his country and has four CDs of his compositions to his credit.

Since its formation in 2008, Duke and Howie have made the impetus for their duo the presentation of exciting and innovative chamber music. Of particular interest and drive for the duo has been their close collaboration with some of Australia’s most prominent and respected composers commissioning, recording and performing these new works written specifically for them. Leading composers that have written for HD Duo include: Anne Boyd, Michael Smetanin, Matthew Hindson, Mark Zadro, Andrew Batterham, Tim Dargaville, Brenton Broadstock, Miriama Young, Catherine Likhuta and Paul Sarcich. The promotion of Australian music has been a driving force behind many of their projects including cross-cultural collaborations in Mexico, Thailand and Commonwealth countries.
Meeting as colleagues at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the Duo has toured across the major cities of Australia as well as appearing in concert throughout the world in countries such as Thailand, USA, Singapore, England, Scotland, France, Malta, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Canada, Croatia, Mexico and French Polynesian New Caledonia. Some highlights include: performances at multiple World Saxophone Congress’ (2009, 2012, 2015, 2018), their UK debut in concert at “Australia House” in London (2012), the Australasian Saxophone and Clarinet Conference (2013) and recital concerts at the Festival de Mexico in Mexico City (2014).


David studied piano under Sonya Hanke and Gordon Watson as an undergraduate, and then specialized in Accompaniment, studying with David Miller in Sydney at the Conservatorium of Music and Paul Hamburger in London, at the Royal Academy of Music. He was Head of Keyboard Studies at Kings College in Somerset, England for four years before returning to Australia where he has lectured in accompaniment as a member of the Ensemble Unit since 1992 at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He has performed throughout England, Europe, America and Australia, has given numerous live broadcasts and studio recordings for the B.B.C, Radio Luxembourg, A.B.C. television and radio and 2MBS FM. Claude Delangle, Stanley Drucker, Kyle Horsch, Gordon Hunt, Peter Jenkins, Annalisa Kerrigan, Nick Parnell, Kamahl, Dominica Matthews, Otis Murphy, Richard Sherman, David Wakeham, Mark Walton and Asmira Woodward –Page, are some of the many wonderful artists from Australia and internationally that he has had the pleasure to perform with over the years. He is President of the Accompanists’ Guild of NSW.

Born in Melbourne Australia, Michael Duke completed his Doctorate degree in Music Performance from Indiana University studying under the tutelage of renowned classical saxophonists Eugene Rousseau, Jean-Yves Fourmeau and Arno Bornkamp. He has performed with many of Australia’s premiere orchestras including the Sydney Symphony, Opera Australia, Queensland Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, Orchestra Victoria, the Australian Philharmonic and Pops Orchestra, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. On the national and world stages he has been invited to perform at numerous international conferences, music institutions and festivals as both lecturer and performer in such countries as the USA, UK, Denmark, Hong Kong and China. In 2016 Duke performed as concerto soloist in the world premiere of Lyle Chan’s award winning “My Dear Benjamin” Serenade for tenor, saxophone and orchestra with the Queensland Symphony. In 2010 Duke was a featured artist at the prestigious International Society for Contemporary Music World New Music Days conference in Sydney, Australia where he presented two concerts of new music for saxophone. In the USA Duke has taught on the faculty of Simpson College in Iowa (2002-2005) and Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts (2007-2008). Beginning in July 2008, Duke commenced his appointment as the first ever full-time classical saxophone lecturer in Australia at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Sydney University where he currently holds the title of Associate Professor saxophone. He is a Yamaha Australia performing artist.

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