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 • Jennifer Higdon • Fred Sturm • Michael Torke • David Bixler • Carleton Macy


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 play it.
- Matthew Sintchak


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.

Lullaby—This movement was originally written for mezzo, flute, and piano, but I kept hearing it as a saxophone quartet in my head. It is a lullaby whose lyrical qualities seem to lend themselves to the saxophone very well.

Splashing the Canvas—This movement was inspired by the idea of an artist who splashes paint upon a canvas in a wild and uncontrolled manner, building up layers and constantly changing the resulting structure. When I started this movement, I had been reading a biography of Jackson Pollock, who was a very angry person whose approach to painting included this technique of throwing paint at the canvas.

Coyote Nights—Many years ago, I took a trip out West, camping out in eight different National Parks; one of those parks was Arches, in Utah. It becomes totally dark at night, out there in the sand, with large looming rocks and a million stars above, and with the sound of wild coyotes crying in the night. The crying of the wild animals was a peaceful reminder that we are visitors.

Stomp and Dance—For this movement, I was inspired by the Broadway show “Stomp.” The idea in “Stomp” is that various performers make rhythmic cadences out of anything, from matchboxes to brooms to oil drums. I thought that their rhythms and execution of the pieces were so interesting and ingenious, that I wanted to take their “spirit” and infuse it into one of the movements of this quartet.


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.
- Fred Sturm


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

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.
- David Bixler


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 composers.
- Carleton Macy


‘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.
- Fred Sturm

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