When approaching this new CD there was one thing for sure I knew and that was that the performances would be wonderful. With two musicians possessing the skills and reputations of Michael Duke and David Howie the listener and indeed the composers could be confident of superb playing and a devotion to the music.” - Alan Holley

Classikon Magazine

Music of the Commonwealth

HD Duo - Michael Duke and David Howie

Due for Release in December 2021

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’ for alto saxophone and piano by Stephen Chatman (Canada)

  1. Moonlight
  2. Labyrinth
  3. Crimson
  4. Joy
  5. Silence
  6. Frenzy

‘The Man in the Wind and the West Moon’ for alto saxophone and piano by Stephen McNeff (United Kingdom)

‘Boiling Clouds’ for soprano saxophone and piano by Ruben Zahra (Malta)

‘Nostos’ for alto/soprano saxophone and piano by Aris Antoniades (Cyprus)

  1. A Morning in the Village
  2. Grandmother Maroulla’s Stories
  3. Ritual Dance (“Leventikos”)

‘Hammerblow’ for alto saxophone and piano by Brenton Broadstock (Australia)

‘Airs of Lanka’ for tenor saxophone and piano by Pradeep Ratnayake (Sri Lanka)

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Australian Thais: New Music for Saxophone and Piano

HD Duo (Michael Duke and David Howie)

For their fourth recording together, HD Duo (Michael Duke – saxophone and David Howie – piano) have collaborated with some of Thailand’s and Australia’s premiere composers to commission, workshop and produce new music for a cross-cultural exchange aimed at enhancing and strengthening links between the two countries. The presentation of these vibrant and exciting new works hopes to foster an increased cultural awareness and understanding of both countries through music.

The initial impetus of this project came from David Howie’s Thai family connections and the shared interest to explore the connections between the music and people of both countries. In 2009 Duke and Howie travelled to Bangkok to perform at the World Saxophone Congress. Since this initial trip they have been looking to return to share more music of Australian music in addition to bringing the incredible but seldom heard Thai compositions back home.

‘Hurly Burly’ for soprano saxophone and piano. Matthew Orlovich

‘Dervish’ for alto saxophone and piano. Gerard Brophy

‘Water has no equal’ for soprano saxophone and piano. Tim Dargaville

‘Three Spirits of ASEAN’ for alto saxophone and piano. Narongrit Dhamabutra The Chant of Rattanatri Gala the beast Kakula

‘Serenity Flux’ for tenor saxophone and piano. Saksri Pang Vongtaradon

‘Isaan’ for alto saxophone and piano. Denny J. Euprasert

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The Mexican Connection

Michael Duke

As the result of an Australian Goverment-sponsored project, Michael Duke and David Howie toured both Mexico and Australia presenting new works written for them by composers of both countries. This disc presents the fascinating results of this cross-Pacific cross-fertilization.

"Nicely documented and presenting a strong audio image, this is well worth dipping into. Future contenders in competitions should certainly get this as it will introduce stimulating works that shake off the usual suspects." Musicweb International

"Some of the music is contemplative and serene while other sections are wild and furious. Howie and Duke play these often strange and sometimes bizarre works so masterfully that even the most jagged passages are beautiful and engaging." Loudmouth

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Incandescence: music by women composers for saxophone and piano

Michael Duke / HD Duo

In this fantastically interesting programme of music devoted to women composers, the eminent and internationally recognized saxophonist Michael Duke, performs music, presents a programme of music for saxophone and piano devoted to women composers. With his dedicated commitment to new music and the cause of exposing and promoting composers who might otherwise be lost form view, this recording is an exciting and significant addition to the recording catalogue played by this established dynamic Duo.

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Australian Portrait

Michael Duke / HD Duo

From the dance-like playfulness of Matthew Hindson's Repetepetition to the terrifying portents of an Aboriginal legend depicted in Anne Boyd's Ganba, six Australian composers demonstrate the stylistic variety that is a feature of the current Australian musical scene.

Michael Duke is Chair of the Woodwind unit at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, while David Howie is a member of the Ensemble Unit there. Together they produce vivid performances of these striking additions to the saxophone repertoire.

"If you wanted to gauge the stylistic variety on offer in contemporary Australian saxophone music you could do an awful lot worse than lend an ear to this discriminating and excellently performed selection." Jonathan Woolf, Musicweb International

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Michael Duke

One of Australia’s leading saxophonists, Michael Duke presents a programme made up of specifically from the canon of music for two saxophones. Joined by master performers Jeff Emerich, Michael Lichnovsky, Martin Kay and Anna Duke, this collection showcases the flexibility of tone and diversity of colour of the instrument across a breadth of musical styles show the immense diversity and possibilities of such an instrumental combination.

The Gershwin-esque opening of Cockcroft’s Slap Me gives way to a bluesy, jazz inspired work full of energy and excitement. The virtuosic and often humorous French writing that so influenced the music of the saxophone is represented in Dubois’ impressive Six Caprices.

We hear the recreation of an imaginary “Middle Age” world in Lauba’s Ars with music that brings forth the sounds of the medieval shawm.

Internationally acclaimed composer Samuel Adler’s captivating work Two Contrasting Inventions appears here in its world premiere recording.

Along with the Dubois are two other “standards” in the saxophone repertoire in Paul Hindemith’s Konzertstuck and John David Lamb’s Six Barefoot Dances, both of which showcase the lyricism and vibrancy of the instrument.

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Tango de Saxos

Nexas Quartet

For decades saxophonists have sought to explore the multitude of Latin American musical traditions, with a particular fondness for the Argentinian Tango. The poetic nature of this music, its rhythmic drive and melancholic melody are a perfect fit for the flexibility and lyricism of the saxophone. The saxophone quartet is a powerhouse of a medium with its ability to bring individual characters into a homogeneous ensemble akin to an orchestra while still reflecting the unique voices within it. This makes it the ideal ensemble for such nostalgic and impassioned music.

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Nexas Quartet

'Current' is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the ensemble and is a reflection of their collaborations with leading Australian composers. Featuring music from national treasures Hindson, Kats-Chernin, Orlovich, Rojas and Skipworth this recording demonstrates the versatility of Nexas and their desire to promote unique Australian compositional voices.

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Ballads of the Pleasant Life

Nexas Quartet with Peter Coleman-Wright

“You will hear music created on the brink of cataclysm, proclaiming as it does with such intensity the survival of art and beauty in a hostile world. Any new recording of music from the short-lived Weimar Republic deserves our rapt attention, and now the world-renowned Australian baritone, Peter Coleman-Wright, offers a thrilling selection from this repertoire.” – Barry Humphries, in his introduction to Ballads of the Pleasant Life.

Distinguished baritone Peter Coleman-Wright steps off the world’s opera stages to present a rare recording of music close to his heart: the remarkable songs written as the Weimar Republic descended into Nazism in the 1920 and ‘30s, by composers at home in Germany and Austria who were then forced to flee into exile. These songs capture the spirit of the times: defiant, soulful and searching, but also capable of moments of exuberant joy and hope.

The music of Kurt Weill sits at the heart of the album. We meet Weill’s infamous creation Mack the Knife, who first saw the light of day in 1920s Berlin and soon became a smash hit. A prominent Jew, Weill fled Germany in 1933. In America, he found his new musical home in the theatre, collaborating with lyricists Ira Gershwin and Maxwell Anderson, including his hilarious catalogue of Russian composers “Tschaikowsky” and the timeless ode “There’ll Be Love, Life and Laughter”.

For Weill’s generation, music was the language of protest. Austrians Hanns Eisler and Alexander von Zemlinsky wrote popular songs from the perspective of the downtrodden: the miners, the cotton packers and many more besides.

Amidst all this, there were flashes of humour, and the desire to take the rare joys of life by both hands. The album closes with a series of love songs, often sentimental, always heartfelt: film composer Robert Stolz’ praise for the beauties of life’s autumn years; Arnold Schoenberg’s elegy to the exquisite agony of separation; and Franz Schreker’s melancholy tribute to transient love.

Peter Coleman-Wright is regarded as one of the world’s leading baritones, with a stellar career in the world’s leading concert halls including Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Met in New York and the Sydney Opera House; he finds the perfect foil for this music in the Sydney-based Nexas Quartet. The arrangements of these songs for baritone and saxophone quartet, created especially for this album, reflect a combination that would have been familiar to the clubs and bars where much of this music was first performed.

Peter Coleman-Wright baritone Nexas Quartet Benjamin Burton piano

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