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Works reviewed: 
Quintet for Piano and Wind Instruments in Eb, K. 452, W.A. Mozart
Saxophone Quartet, Lukas Foss
Lullaby, George Gershwin
Jassamine Lane, Eubie Blake
Eubie Dubie, Eubie Blake
Buffalo News
Buffalo, NY
Oct 9 1990
By: 
Herman Trotter

A record company supports a new release by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet and Lukas Foss
WELL. GUESS who's featured in the full-color, full-page ad that appears on the back cover of Musical America mag-azine and in the New York Times Sunday Magazine? Our own Amherst Saxophone Quartet and Lukas Foss, that's who!

This prominent and costly advertising position is evidence of the importance MCA Classics attaches to its new recording called "Mozart to Modern." It features the ASQ and composer/pianist and former Buffalo Philharmonic music director Foss in works of Mozart, Foss, Gershwin and Joplin.

This is the ASQ's second release on the major, worldwide MCA label, and it's quite different from the first, which was all Bach. Here we have something much more like the ASQ's typical, highly successful concert program format. It has usually incorporated selections from the traditional sax repertory. contemporary works (many composed for or commissioned by the ensemble), transcriptions of works for other instrumental combinations and the signature closing ragtime favorites.

Leading off the new MCA Compact Disc is a transcription of Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-Flat, K452, by internationally respected Buffalo composer Leo Smit. With Foss joining the ensemble as pianist. the performance has an attractively lithe and sinuous quality. This is largely due to the sonority produced by the four saxes, which is naturally more homogeneous than the original scoring for oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn.

But granting the slightly lesser instrumental pungency in the transcription, the listener's attention shifts slightly to focus on the engaging interplay between the relatively percussive piano attacks and the legato lines of the four reeds. On this basis, the balance between reeds and piano is ideal. Foss once again proves what a superb pianistic feel he has for Mozart, and the ensemble does not try to make more of this music than is there, preserving its essentially genial serenade character with wonderful fidelity in its new clothing.

The other major work is the recorded premiere of Foss' 1985 Saxophone Quartet. It's quite complex in structure, defying easy description, but in essence it seems to be a study in contrasting sections of bristling and long-sustained sonorities, cacophony and serenity.

The opening movement, Introduction, forecasts this pattern in microcosm. with its quiet chords interrupted by energetic bursts of cackling sound. The succeeding Canon is all staccato attacks in seemingly random rhythmic patterns, followed by an exaggeratedly slow Chorale of gorgeously drawn out pianissimo chordal changes. The work closes with a backwards version of the Canon, emerging from silence to re-establish the jabbing ambience, then sinking into a calm C Major chord at the close.

It is a complicated work. But it's propelled by such a sense of logic and is so magnificently performed by the ASQ that it becomes a very satisfying listening experience.

The CD is filled out with transcriptions by two ASQ members, Gershwin's serenely gentle "Lullaby" for string quartet and Eubie Blake's "Jassamine Lane" by Stephen Rosenthal, and Blake's "Eubie Dubie" by Salvatore Andolina, all impeccably played.

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