|About this Recording
8.559616 - Chamber Music (Saxophone Quartet) - IVES, C. / HIGDON, J. / STURM, F. / TORKE, M. / BIXLER, D. / MACY, C. (Short Stories) (Ancia Saxophone Quartet)
Short Stories: American Music for Saxophone Quartet
Charles Ives (1874–1954): Quartet No. 1: Chorale (Andante con moto)
Written during his student days at Yale, Ives’s String Quartet No. 1 is subtitled “A Revival Service”. Ives quotes a number of tunes throughout the work, including Coronation, Missionary Hymn, and J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (“Dorian”), BWV 538 in the first movement, Chorale. Ives later reworked the first movement of this work as the third movement in the Fourth Symphony.
Ever since I was first introduced to his music as a
student at the New England Conservatory in Boston,
I’ve been fascinated with the musical output of Charles
Ives. As a typical saxophonist, I searched for anything
of his that I could adapt for my instrument and found his
String Quartet No. 1 a perfect fit. Like most projects, I
didn’t get around to arranging the work until many years
later. Once I joined Ancia, I knew this was the group to
Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962): Short Stories
Short Stories was written in 1995 as a part of the American Composers Forum Composers Commissioning Project. Ancia was the lead group for this commissioning consortium and premiered the piece in Minneapolis in 1996. The following are excerpts from the composer’s notes: Chase—This is a running game, where pursuers and prey sometimes come very close to catching up with each other; when they do, they rough and tumble before sprinting off again. Summer’s Eve—An idyllic summer evening where folks are out sitting on their porches in swings and rocking chairs, listening to the sounds of summer: crickets and children at play, and soft evening breezes.
Fred Sturm (b. 1951): Picasso Cubed
In his 1912 publication The Beginnings of Cubism,
avant-garde poet Guillaume Apollinaire defined cubism
as “the art of painting original arrangements composed
of elements taken from conceived rather than perceived
reality”. Picasso Cubed is an abstract recasting of tenor
saxophone giant Coleman Hawkins’s remarkable 1948
unaccompanied tenor saxophone improvisation Picasso
into a composition (recomposition?) for saxophone
quartet. Inspired by the techniques of Pablo Picasso and
the cubist painters of the early Twentieth Century,
Picasso Cubed dissects Hawkins’s improvised material
and reassembles it in an abstracted form. Using the four
distinct voices of the quartet, Hawkins’s phrases are
fractured into a series of intersecting variations that
manipulate texture, density, color, space, and form.
Picasso Cubed was created for my dear friend and
former student David Milne, his saxophone quartet
JAZZAX, and the 2003 World Saxophone Congress.
Michael Torke (b. 1961): July
When I am drawn to a particular rhythmic groove from an overheard pop song, I scratch my head and think: “I like that, how could I use it?” To me, it’s not worth trying to write another of the ten million songs out there. But I’ve found that if I take a small part of the drum track and assign it to non-percussion instruments, then interesting things happen. What fascinates me is that this act of translation seems to completely remove the original reference from my music; sometimes I can’t even remember what the original song was that inspired me and, if I do, it’s hard even to hear the connection. But what remains is the energy.
Like December for string orchestra—the piece that
preceded July—I’m trying to incorporate contrasting
themes and moods together in a single movement work.
To me this evokes a wider range of impressions. Instead
of single-mindedly exploring one color, as in earlier
pieces of mine, the music now corresponds to an
experience of time—the energy and heat we find in the
month of July, as well as cooling breezes of repose that
come, perhaps, in the evening.
Michael Torke’s July was first performed in August, 1995 by the Apollo Saxophone Quartet.
David Bixler (b. 1964): Heptagon
Heptagon was written in the winter of 2006. As the title
implies, it consists of seven movements. These seven
movements are based on three three-note melodic cells
which are used both melodically and harmonically in
each of the movements. In doing this, I tried to create a
common thread that is an attempt to unify the work.
Working against or with this idea is the unique rhythmic
fashion in which the melodic material is couched. Each
of the movements is based on a specific groove to which
I wrote as if a rhythm section were present.
Carleton Macy (b. 1944): Elusive Dreams
Elusive Dreams was written on the urging of Jean-Pierre
Baraglioli and 4UATRE, his Paris-based saxophone
quartet. The original intention was to compose a piece
using bandoneon, but, so far, performances have been
limited to the use of accordion. The piece itself recreates
my own attempt to find/discover an elusive tango that
seemed to be buried within the musical materials and
the instrumental textures and timbres presented by the
ensemble. It might be possible to stretch the metaphor to
the search for the elusive tango in all of music; after all,
to some people, Brahms may be the greatest of all tango
‘Jelly Roll’ Morton (1890–1941), arr. Fred Sturm: Black Bottom Stomp
This arrangement was inspired by a wonderful big band
arrangement that Jaxon Stock did for the National Jazz
Ensemble about a quarter century ago. My biggest
challenge in creating the quartet arrangement was
generating the constant pulse and groove that Morton’s
septet so wonderfully created in their 1926 recording—without a rhythm section. I also wanted each quartet
member to stand out and have the spotlight spread
among the players, with little hot spots of primary focus
moving from instrument to instrument.
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