After Amherst, audience knew they'd had good sax

Works reviewed: 
Nuages - Scherzo, Eugene Bozza
Maui News, The
Maui, HI
Nov 8 1988
By: 
Joan Hayden

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet was the focus of a delightful and unusual chamber music concert held Saturday at the Makawao Union Church. In this intimate setting, the quartet allowed us a close and generous look at their diverse talents. Amply rewarded for taking a chance, the audience was serenaded, dazzled, teased and cajoled with the warm wit of tenor saxophonist Stephen Rosenthal, and the virtuoso playing of the ensemble. Rosenthal, the evenings raconteur, included a vignette of the quartet's development and the history of the saxophone as well as the available repertoire for saxophone quartet. His dialogue liberally sprinkled with musical jokes kept the audience enchanted and quite off-guard, twittering with laughter when the music began. The music was no less engrossing. Alto saxophonist Michael Nascimben holds a doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. Four of his arrangements were performed during the evening. They ranged from the opening Bach grouping of three short pieces, Fugue in G, Air from the Suite in D for orchestra, better known as the Air for the G String (violin transcription), and Badinerie from the B minor suite No. 2 for flute and orchestra, to the closing Ragtime finale. In between were his Gershwin Medley and his arrangement of Verdi's La Forza Del Destino overture. The familiar opening Bach pieces allowed the audience to respond to the beautiful and sonorous colors of this unusual consort of instruments. Next was a serious work by Belgian composer Joseph Jongen, Quartet for Saxophones, Opus 122 in freely rhapsodic style, which was written in 1942, exactly 100 years after the saxophone was invented by another Belgian working in Paris, Adolph Sax. His invention of adding a reed mouthpiece to a brass instrument resulted in this unique cross between brass and woodwind instruments. The Jongen composition was impressionistic with jazz influences, the finale demonstrating the big sound capabilities of this combo. Petite Suite, especially written for the Amherst Quartet by Ira Kraemer and Scherzo from Nuages (Clouds) by Eugene Bozza, a fantastic perpetual motion concluded the first half. The second half of the program beginning with Verdi, lush and lyrical, moved into the familiar Gershwin melodies, Fascinatin Rhythm, Embraceable You, Somebody Loves Me, Someone to Watch Over Me, and I Got Rhythm. Here, the sound of the sax is familiar, ingrained in our lives. Jazz Vignettes by Andrew White followed two superbly facile and fluid pieces, the second, Impression, after John Coltrane. Closing were the Rags from footpatting to elegant and polished, enough to satisfy your heart.