Andante et Scherzetto, Pierre Lantier

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Andante et Scherzetto, Pierre Lantier
Year of Composition: 1942    

Review

Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Friday, September 26, 1997
Horns of Plenty
Mary Kunz

The Quartet, still fine after 20 years
THE FIRST clue that the Amherst Saxophone Quartet isn't your average chamber ensemble comes in the group's program notes. Right after a windy rundown of grants and funding, a footnote reads:
Members of the ASQ met with the Governor and County Executive last night, threatening to move the Quartet out of town unless its new multimillion dollar stadium is built. The ASQ also insisted that all proceeds from beer sold at the concerts would go to the owners of the Group.

On a different page:
It is no more accurate to suggest that an animal doctor who has served overseas is a veterinarian of foreign wars than it is to imply that an eye doctor who lives forever is an eternal optometrist. (An excerpt from the self help book When Good Puns Happen to Bad People.)

This isn't to imply, of course, that the group is a joke. The ASQ, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, is a tremendously success. The four sax men - Salvatore Andolina on soprano, Russ Carere on alto, Stephen Rosenthal on tenor and Harry Fackelman on baritone - have sold out Carnegie Hall. They have played in lincoln Center. They've been praised by everyone from Time magazine to Johnny Carson.

But back home in Buffalo, they're free to let down their hair.

Thursday night in Slee Hall, the ASQ presented a program called "Our First Concert Ever." It's part of the group's season-long anniversary blowout, and will be repeated Oct. 1 at Olmsted School 64, Oct. 15 at the Bijou Grille and Nov. 19 at Iroquois High School.

"Our First Concert Ever" is a repeat of the music the ASQ played at its first recital on March 12, 1978. There's a bit of everything on the menu, all in bite-size portions. "You can talk between pieces, and nothing's over seven minutes, so you'll still be able to remember the end of  your sentence" said Rosenthal the group's charming spokesman.

The beauty of the ASQ is diat it will be whatever you want it to be. It can sound like an elegant cafe group, as during a whimsical piece by Jean Francaix. It can be a smooth wind ensemble, as in a Tchaikovsky andante. It can resemble a jazzy ragtime outfit.

What never changes is the musicians' precision. Every crescendo, every twist and turn is smoothly choreographed. At the end of a piece, the musicians have an uncanny ability to finish their notes at exactly the same instant. You can tell these guys have been playing together for 20 years. They've learned to breathe in sync.

A stately Sarabande by Bach began the evening. The famous Boccherini minuet, which followed, is something we've all heard hundreds of times - but rarely, I'll bet, as briskly as the ASQ tossed it off. Led by Andolina, this was one bouncy dance - nothing sedate about it. It was a delight.

The highlights were the pieces written particularly for saxophone quartet. They capitalized best on the peculiar textures of the instrument. Pierre Lantier's "Andante et Scherzetto" was a kick, as was Francaix's "Petit Quatour Pour Saxophones." Both works had a slinky grace - so very French. The first movement of the Francaix had a nightclubby raunch, while the second part was of dark drama. The conclusion, "Serenade Comique," skipped along with hiccuping good cheer.

Should anyone feel cowed by unfamiliar music, the irresistible Rosenthal did a witty job of explaining what we should listen for. He described the Francaix first movement, for instance, as "like Jabberwocky without the long toenails," and let us in on a secret: "A composer's idea of a joke is suddenly to change the volume level."

He explained that another work, Rocco DiPietro's "Phantom Melos," was a tone poem about Buffalo. Composed for the ASQ in 1983, the work was written by DiPietro on the roof of a downtown hotel. ("And later he transcribed it to music paper," Rosenthal added, deadpan.)

"Phantom Melos" is supposed to suggest voices from Buffalo's past, from Canal District roustabouts to priests and presidents. To aid our imaginations, the ASQ cut the lights so only their music stands' were illuminated. The piece proved fun to interpret. It began with long honks - aha, Canal District foghorns - followed by a friendly cacophony that could have been the city's church bells, all clanging .together. Staccato blasts implied car horns. And the composer saved the best for last: We heard revving noises which had to be - trust me on this - someone on the West Side trying to start his wreck on a snowy morning.

For humor and sophistication the ASQ can't be beat, and everyone should try to catch at least a comer of their yearlong celebration. As Rosenthal said, "We still think we're students here, and when we're 21 we'll be able to go out." Musically, the ASQ are maturity personified. But I doubt they'll ever lose their sense of fun.

 

Andante et Scherzetto, Pierre Lantier
Petit Quatuor pour Saxophones, Jean Francaix
Phantom Melos (1981), Rocco Di Pietro
Horns of Plenty
Horns of Plenty
Stuart News (Stuart, Florida)
Friday, April 5, 1996
Amherst Saxophone Quartet lets loose at concert
Robert S. Butler

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet, which prides itself on presenting a decidedly unstuffy experience to its audiences, did just that March 29 at Stuart's Lyric Theater. The saxophone virtuosos, final season presentation of the Treasure Coast Concert Association, are always a delight., running the musical gamut from classical to jazz. Stephen Rosenthal, Tenor sax, serves as the Buffalo, N.Y. group's announcer and stand-up comic. Steve provides an ongoing humorous, iconoclastic commentary on the evening's music and other unrelated subjects. His wisecracks, jokes and hijinks relax and amuse. It definitely provides a unique approach and was to the audience's liking. The talented four are all serious musicians. They have a wonderfully rich, sauve, mellifluous tone. They began with Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, playing with crisp articulation in the contrapuntal piece; almost putting Virgil Fox to shame. French composer Lantier's Andante et Scherzetto opened with an impressionistic conventionally harmonic Andante evocative of a rippling, meandering stream. The following Scherzetto was lively and droll. Alec Wilder's Saxophone Quartet (1967) displayed a jazz influence with an improvisational feel. A moody, undulating cantabile ... a fascinating and hypnotic, repeated rhythmic pattern in the second movement and a jazzy, free cacophony in the third movement. Eugene Bozza/ Nuages featured chromatic scales descriptive of clouds whirling and scampering across the sky. Rocco Di Pietro's Phantom Melos was a haunting modern composition on the cutting edge. The work was composed for the group in 1981. The evening concluded with some toe-tapping jazz selections, including a wonderful Duke Ellington piece. Ragtime selections of Eubie Blake concluded the concert with an especially fine rendition of Blake's Memories of You.

Andante et Scherzetto, Pierre Lantier
Phantom Melos (1981), Rocco Di Pietro
Toccata and Fugue, Johann Sebastian Bach
Saxophone Quartet, Alec Wilder
Nuages, Eugene Bozza
Phantom Melos
Memories of You, Eubie Blake
Amherst Saxophone Quartet lets loose at concert
Palm Beach Post (Palm Beach, FL)
Sunday, March 31, 1996
'Memories of You' are fond adieu for quartet
Bill F. Faucett

STUART - Upon taking my seat at the Lyric Theatre just prior to Friday night's concert by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, I was reminded of a joke famous among musicians: "What do you call 10,000 saxophones at the bottom of the ocean?" Answer: "A good start."

But those of us with a less-than-tolerant attitude toward this oft-maligned instrument could not help but be thrilled with the work of the quartet. The ensemble played with confident virtuosity and superb musicianship; more importantly, they demonstrated there is much beauty to both the saxophone and its literature.

Most of the program comprised works composed specifically for a quartet of saxophones, which includes soprano, alto, tenor and baritone instruments.

The best among these compositions was Pierre Lantier's delightful Andante et Scherzino (1942). The lush first movement was highlighted by fine tenor saxophone playing by Stephen Rosenthal.

Saxophone Quartet (1967) by Alec Wilder, a songwriter whose significant achievements in instrumental music are inexplicably overlooked, was admirably performed.

Eugene Bozza's Nuages (1946) and Rocco DePietro's Phantom Melos (1981) were the most modernistic works on the concert. Bozza's dazzlingly energetic music borrowed from Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, while the DePietro piece, with its angular melodies and tired gimmickry, was of little interest.

The recital opened with an impressive performance of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for Organ (arranged for saxophone quartet), but more impressive was the finale, which included arrangements of music by Duke Ellington and Eubie Blake.

It was a splendid rendition of Blake's Memories of You that provided the best moments of the night.

Andante et Scherzetto, Pierre Lantier
Saxophone Quartet, Alec Wilder
Nuages - Scherzo, Eugene Bozza
Phantom Melos (1981), Rocco Di Pietro
Toccata and Fugue, Johann Sebastian Bach
Memories of You, Eubie Blake
'Memories of You' are fond adieu for quartet
Greenville News, The (Greenville, S.C.)
Saturday, January 27, 1996
Sax quartet gives classics new sound
Janie Caves McCauley

The saxophone -- that instrument usually associated with jazz clubs and marching bands - has moved up a notch or two in the world of classical music. That's not merely because there's now a sax at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., although the president's penchant for tooting his horn can't have hurt. The Amherst Saxophone Quartet's Friday night concert at the Gunter Theatre documented the expanding interest in that Johnny-come-lately of orchestral instruments. Since its founding in 1978, the ASQ has, in fact, been singularly responsible for the wider familiarity and acceptance of saxophone quartet music in America. On soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes, members perform works ranging from 18th century chamber music to contemporary popular pieces. Some are transcriptions, but an increasingly greater proportion are new works composed for the quartet. For Friday's performance, the ensemble programmed a transcription of Bach, works from the modern and contemporary repertoire for saxophone quartet, and arrangements of jazz and ragtime. The offerings covered a wide expressive range. The ASQ can be rapid and brilliant one moment and languid the next. The group plays with vitality, elegant phrasing, rhythmic precision and textural clarity. The program began with a soft, sultry blues arrangement that, played in a dark theater, seemed to bring all the dreariness of the evening into the hall. Next was a winning, even disarming, arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Precisely articulated and refined in tone, it offered listeners a new and revelatory way of hearing an old favorite. The first movement of Pierre Lantier's Andante et Scherzetto (1942) became a polite conversation among equals, flawlessly passed off from one voice to the next. The composer's lush harmonies and the ensemble's dreamy tone made this section a highlight of the concert. For Alec Wilder's 1967 Saxophone Quartet, the showy playing was more distinguished than the composition. On the swinging side of the program, arrangements of Eubie Dubie and Charleston Rag by Eubie Blake generated the most audience enthusiasm.

Toccata and Fugue, Johann Sebastian Bach
Andante et Scherzetto, Pierre Lantier
Sax quartet gives classics new sound
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Monday, October 5, 1992
Sax quartet opens new season in new home
Herman Trotter

Smaller hall at Nichols School embelishes the group's expertise
The Amherst Saxophone Quartet opened its 15th year Sunday evening in a new home base, the wood-paneled Boocock Library on the Nichols School's Amherst Street campus.

This site is smaller than such previous series locations as Rockwell Hall, the Historical Society Auditorium and Canisius College's Christ the King Chapel. As a result the ensemble's sound seemed closer, more intimate, and perhaps even a bit louder than we were accustomed to, but the library'S vaulted ceiling and wood paneling also lent a welcome richness and warmth to the sonority so that the new location seems entirely hospitable.

For this concert The quartet also was seated in a straight line facing the audience instead of the usual rectangular pattern facing each other. There were a few times, mostly in the opening Bach "Fugue a la Gigue," when the greater difficulty in making eye contact seemed to effect the ASQ's usual seamless ensemble.

But their customary spirited playing was very much in evidence during the trademark concluding group of highly amiable jazz and ragtime pieces, which included premieres of four works by the ensemble's alto saxophonist Russ Carere, not necessarily intended to be played together but offered in succession this time.

The jazz derived works were "Rainbows" and "Take Off," the former built on gently fluttering layered lines with solos arching over-top and pulsing accompaniment, while the latter was a mellow and mildly pungent rumination ultimately dominated by an entreating, wailing melodic figure.

Carere's ragtime pieces were the easy swinging "River Walk," based on a jaunty three-note falling and rising figure, and the more rapid and angular "Falconer Street."

Soprano saxophonist Sal Andolina's arrangement of Zez Confrey's "Audacity" was flat-out ragtime, rollicking and rolling along to conclude the program in the prototypical ASQ manner.

For me the meatiest part of the program was Leo Smit's "Tzadik." The Buffalo-based composer says the title refers to revered Hasidic secular leaders able to conjure mystic spells. The music had this quality in abundance, opening in an incantation of deep chordal dissonance, going on to a series of primal shouts, a joyous street dance like a hora, some plodding but hypnotically fascinating processional passages and even a static but subtle progression reminiscent of a Schoenbergian "klangfarbenmelodie" (tone color melody).

It's a very episodic piece of some 15 minutes duration, but the ASQ's understanding, commitment and musicianship made it all hang together very effectively.

Representing the standard sax quartet literature was Pierre Lantier's 1942 "Andante and Scherzetto," offering sonorities which seemed particularly smooth and suave after the Yiddish chatter and wails of "Tzadik." The Andante, although music absolutely without a program, is the kind of rhapsody which can evoke bright, shining Spring days. The ASQ played it with gentle, undulating line and superb ensemble balance, while the Scherzetto, with its jaunty melody recalling "We're off to see the Wizard," made a brief and delightfully capricious finale.

Music of another Buffalo-based composer, Rocco Di Pietro, opened the second half. His "Souvenirs from Bellini's 'Norma'" was unashamed bel canto fine-lined melody over typically thin harmonization and repetitive oom-pah-pah supporting figurations. It was altogether engaging, and played with an obvious understanding of bel canto essences.

Rainbows, Russ Carere
Take Off, Russ Carere
Falconer Street, Russ Carere
Tzadik (1983), Leo Smit
Andante et Scherzetto, Pierre Lantier
Souvenirs from Bellini's Norma (1984), Rocco Di Pietro
River Walk, Russ Carere
Sax quartet opens new season in new home