Contemporary Classics September 1, 2020 Saxophone in Contemporary Classical Music
Tonight on Contemporary Classics we are featuring the saxophone in contemporary classical music. We are going to explore many aspects of contemporary saxophone music from the sonata to the saxophone quartet to the saxophone in a larger instrumental ensemble with voice.
Lets start with William Albright: Sonata for saxophone. William Albright was a composer, pianist and organist who for 18 years until his premature death from alcohol induced liver failure at 51 was an influential and inspiring faculty member at the University of Michigan. He wrote for the saxophone in a variety of formats over his life including the sonata for saxophone that we will be listening to tonight.
Written in 1984, William Albright: Sonata for saxophone and piano is in 4 movements:
I. Two-Part Invention
II. La follia nuova: a lament for George Cacioppo
III. Scherzo "Will o' the wisp"
Recitative and Dance
The first movement: Two Part Invention is intense and almost relentless. It takes title from the baroque pedagogical keyboard works, which Albright as a pianist and organist would have been very familiar. But this movement relies more on the musical devices of the 20th century than the pedagogy of the 17th and 18th centuries. The music generally proceeds in fits and starts and is largely disjunctive in nature with the exception of two peaceful sections. In this movement however are many of .the musical elements, which will be used throughout the rest of the work.
The Second movement named La follia nuova: a lament for George Cacioppo. This movement is dedicated to George Cacioppo, a mentor of Albright’s, who died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1984 and Albright wrote “He woud have appreciagted the use of the traditional title “la follia” (the madness) in my reincarnation as “la follia nuova”. What he meant is that much of this piece is quiet and in stark contrast to the first movement. This makes the use of the term la follia as somewhat ironic because the original follia of the 15th century was a madcap dance which was very quick and lively. The term follia is portugese meaning “mad” or “empty headed” because dance was so fast and noisy that the dancers seemed out of their minds. This is probably the most emotional movement of the sonata, which varies widely in mood that is at times is “soft and understated utilizing the middle ranges of the instruments and sparse textures”. But at other times it is “loud and full, exhibiting dense textures and extreme registers. Tontal sections and non-tontla ones are juxtaposed, helping to define the form and helping to further contrast in a movement that stands apart form the rest of the sonata. In general the movement is one of profound beauty and should be approached with unabashed emotion and reverence by the players”
The third movement Scherzo "Will o' the wisp" is the shortest but one of the most difficult due to the burst of 16th notes at the extremes of the saxophone’s register with a largely pianissimo dynamic.
The last movement Recitative & Dance is probably the most straight forward movement of the sonata for its economical use of the source material. It starts with a minor third motive in the recitative and expands into the expansive arpeggios of the dance.
Next is Pauline Oliveros’ Saxual Orientation. As a lesbian composer in the second half of the last century, she was proudly sticking it to the powers in the title of this work composed in 1977. The work is for saxophone quartet and lasts about 30 minutes, but it has only 3 printed pages. These three pages include lines of music with instructions like “Play the given melody at a tempo different from the other players” or “Start with soft sub-tones, then gradually change to full-voice timbres. Keep changing timbres” or perhaps my favorite instruction: “Steal someone else’s tempo. If someone steals your tempo, establish a new tempo for yourself”
There was another page with a five-pointed star instructions at each tip such as: “play an unusual melody” and “Play one note as many ways as possible” and “Play a 3 to 5 note riff in you lowest register” and “Demonstrate rhythmic complexity for at least one minute” and “Play as many notes as possible in one breath using only 3 consecutive whole or half note steps”
Then there is the overall instruction “Decide on the order for each given option to play the star pattern. The pattern could be used once or twice for a shorter or longer version of the piece”
Next is Dorothy Hindman’s Drift. Drift is concerned with the perceptual dilemma that no matter how hard one tries, it is not possible to fully focus on a piece of music from beginning to end without having other thoughts or ideas drift in, or rather, it is not possible not to drift in thought while listening to a piece. There are a number of devices in Drift that attempt to force the listener to constantly return their attention to the piece, including hooks, repetition, and timbral effects. There are also internal relationships between instruments and between formal sections that play off the idea of drift, such as one instrument going off on a different tangent than the others in the quartet, or imitative ideas where one instrument follows another canonically, or formal variations that continuously develop an idea. Drift was commissioned by the Lithium Saxophone Quartet in 2002.
Next is an example of the saxophone in a larger ensemble with David Serkin Ludwig’s “The Anchoress” for soprano voice, saxophone quartet, and renaissance wind ensemble which was just release this past Friday on XAS Records.
In the words of Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim from the liner notes “During the Early and High Middle Ages, hundreds of women volunteered for a life of extreme deprivation as anchoresses, mystics bricked up in cells attached to churches. In each anchorhold, a tiny window, known as a “squint,” opened onto the sanctuary so that the anchoress could take part in the Eucharist. Encased in perpetual darkness, she is considered clairvoyant. Dead to the world, she becomes a pillar of her community.”
Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim further writes “Poet Katie Ford gives us entry into the inner life of an anchoress who is by turns contemplative and bitter, mystical and shrewd. David Serkin Ludwig’s setting, the words of Ford’s Anchoress take flight in a flock of voices – all performed by a single soprano who employs a spectrum of vocal techniques, from whispers and the sing-speak style called Sprechstimme to lyrical outpourings and wordless vocalise. Ludwig also gives his Anchoress a doppelgänger in the shape of a solo recorder. Sometimes it hovers about the female voice, or cuts in like a shard of sunlight strafing the cell. On occasion, the recorder seems to take flight – the embodiment of a soul that cannot be confined.”
The instrumentation combines Renaissance wind instrument with the modern saxophone quartet, which Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim describes as “blended together into a soft incense haze” or the saxophones can produce “an eruption of sonic vandalism, part growl, part metal.” “The work is structured in painterly vignettes more than in movements, each one bathed in a particular light and mood.”
Next is Kristin Kuster’s “Red Pine,”. Red Pine is a contemplative, slow ballad about the pine forests of Ontario. With slow-moving, textural chord changes, it flows between robust pulses and gentle trills, and moves through rich tones and muted dynamics.
tonight’s show with Jack Cooper’s Saxophone Sonata in three movements: I. Latin 12/8, swing, II. Slow -
Faster – Slow, III. Up tempo, a la Tristano Sonata by Jack Cooper was commissioned for a
performance at the 12th World Saxophone Congress for the Paul Haar/Jeff Hellmer
duo. Sonata explores the many
tonal colors that the saxophone possesses, the interaction of a soloist and a
collaborative artist, and the duality of jazz and classical in the saxophone's
world. The piece focuses on both classical and jazz saxophone stylings. In
addition to his life as a composer, Jack Cooper is also on faculty at The
University of Memphis.
- 8:05pm William Albright: Sonata I. Two-Part Invention by Timothy McAllister, saxophone; Liz Ames, piano on Notturno (XAS Records ), 2020
- 8:09pm William Albright: Sonata II. La follia nuova: a lament for George Cacioppo by Timothy McAllister / alto and soprano saxophone, Liz Ames / piano on Notturno (XAS Records ), 2020
- 8:17pm William Albright: Sonata III. Scherzo by Timothy McAllister, saxophone; Liz Ames, piano on Notturno (XAS Records ), 2020
- 8:19pm William Albright: Sonata IV. Recitative and Dance (1984) by Timothy McAllister / alto and soprano saxophone, Liz Ames / piano on Notturno (XAS Records ), 2020
- 8:28pm Pauline Oliveros: Saxual Orientation by Red Crane Saxophone Quartet: Adrian Northover, Sue Lynch, Verity Susman and Artur Vidal on Space-Time: The Multiverse - London UK (Live)
- 8:56pm Dorothy Hindman: Drift by Atlas Saxophone Quartet on Hindman: Tapping the furnace (Innova Records), 2013
- 8:59pm Contemporary Classics September 1, 2020 Saxophone in Contemporary Classical Music Part 2 by Saxophone in Contemporary Classical Music on Contemporary Classics
- 9:05pm David Serkin Ludwig: The Anchoress, I. What Is My Life by Hyunah Yu, Mimi Stillman, PRISM Quartet, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band on The Anchoress (XAS Records), 2020
- 9:09pm David Serkin Ludwig: The Anchoress, II. Once a Woman Went Down the Hill by Hyunah Yu, Mimi Stillman, PRISM Quartet, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band on The Anchoress (XAS Records), 2020
- 9:13pm David Serkin Ludwig: The Anchoress, III. What Are We to Make of Visions Lit by Hyunah Yu, Mimi Stillman, PRISM Quartet, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band on The Anchoress (XAS Records), 2020
- 9:17pm David Serkin Ludwig: The Anchoress, IV. This Is the Four Burns of the Soul by Hyunah Yu, Mimi Stillman, PRISM Quartet, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band on The Anchoress (XAS Records), 2020
- 9:20pm David Serkin Ludwig: The Anchoress, V. One Night in Particular by Hyunah Yu, Mimi Stillman, PRISM Quartet, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band on The Anchoress (XAS Records), 2020
- 9:24pm David Serkin Ludwig: The Anchoress, VI. A Woman of the Village by Hyunah Yu, Mimi Stillman, PRISM Quartet, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band on The Anchoress (XAS Records), 2020
- 9:26pm David Serkin Ludwig: The Anchoress, VII. Be Not Assured by Hyunah Yu, Mimi Stillman, PRISM Quartet, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band on The Anchoress (XAS Records), 2020
- 9:29pm David Serkin Ludwig: The Anchoress, VIII. When I Woke Up Sighing by Hyunah Yu, Mimi Stillman, PRISM Quartet, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band on The Anchoress (XAS Records), 2020
- 9:37pm Kristin Kuster: Red Pine by PRISM Quartet on Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (XAS Records ), 2019
- 9:47pm Jack Cooper: Saxophone Sonata: I. Latin 12/8, swing by Chris Parker & Paul Haar on Chamber Wind Music of Jack Cooper (Centaur Records), 2010
- 9:52pm Jack Cooper: Saxophone Sonata: II. Slow - Faster - Slow by Chris Parker, Paul Haar & Michael Waldrop on Chamber Wind Music of Jack Cooper (Centaur Records), 2010
- 9:55pm Jack Cooper: Saxophone Sonata: III. Up tempo, a la Tristano by Chris Parker, Paul Haar & Michael Waldrop on Chamber Wind Music of Jack Cooper (Centaur Records), 2010