Bach On Sax

Works on this Recording.

Badinerie, BWV 1067, Johann Sebastian Bach
Year of Composition:    
Michael Nascimben

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Badinerie
Overture No. 6 in g minor BWV 1070, Johann Sebastian Bach
Year of Composition:    
Michael Nascimben

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Larghetto - un poco Allegro
Torneo
Aria - Adagio
Menuetto alternativo
Capriccio
from The Art of the Fugue, J.S. Bach
Year of Composition: 1745    
Michael Nascimben or Stephen Rosenthal

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Contrapunctus I
Contrapunctus III
Contrapunctus V
Contrapunctus IX
Fantasia and Fugue in c minor BWV 537, Johann Sebastian Bach
Year of Composition:    
Stephen Rosenthal

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Fantasia
Fugue
Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066, Johann Sebastian Bach
Year of Composition:    
Michael Nascimben

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Fugue in G Major, BWV 577, Johann Sebastian Bach
Year of Composition:    
Michael Nascimben

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Fugue in G Major, BWV 577
Concerto No. 1 BWV 592, Johann Sebastian Bach
Year of Composition:    
Michael Nascimben

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Recordings

Bach On Sax
Amherst Saxophone Quartet: Bach On Sax
Salvatore Andolina, soprano
Michael Nascimben, alto
Stephen Rosenthal, tenor
Harry Fackelman, baritone
1988

THE AMHERST SAXOPHONE QUARTET

Music by Johann Sebastian Bach
(Born March 21,1655, in Eisenach, Germany. Died July 28, 1750, in Leipzig)
Notes by Leonard Burkat

In 1717, Johann Sebastian Bach entered the service of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, a great lover of instrumental music who maintained an orchestra of sixteen or eighteen musicians at his court. Bach was their Director, and it was during his six years at Cothen that he wrote many of his great works for instrumental ensembles. Some of the music in his four orchestral suites originated in that early time and was rewritten for the concerts he gave in Leipzig in the 1720's and 1730's. Each suite begins with an overture, and since this is the first word at the head of the music, the entire suites are often referred to as overtures. After each overture comes a series of dances and other short pieces, of which one of the most beautiful is this Air — an old word for "melody" or "tune."

In the year after Johann Sebastian Bach died, some of his musician-sons published an anthology of fugues that had occupied him on and off during the last ten years of his life. There are more than a dozen pieces in it, and each is called, in Latin, a contrapunctus, or "counterpoint," which was how the old German theoreticians referred to fugues. The collection was entitled, in German, Die Kunst der Fuge, or The Art of the Fugue. Old Bach had completed most of his work on it by about 1748, and during his two remaining years, blinded by cataracts and plagued by other ailments, he worked at revising and polishing its contents in preparation for publication.

Few copies were sold in 1751, so it was reissued with a new cover and an introduction by a well known expert (which is exactly what a publisher of our time might do), but within five years they had still sold barely forty copies. Posterity regards this failed publication as a priceless thesaurus of unmatched masterpieces in one of the highest, most complex and most difficult techniques or media of artistic expression. The entire work is based on a single melodic subject or theme, which is heard in highly varied forms.

Contrapunctus I is a straightforward, model fugue in which we hear the instrumental "voices" enter one after another, the second and fourth starting the subject five steps on the scale above the first and third. Contrapunctus III turns things upside down, for the fugue subject is the same as that of Contrapunctus I except that here the notes of the melody go down where they formerly went up. and vice versa. What musicians call the "countersubject" the melodic line that accompanies the later entrances of the subject, is here a slippery, chromatic one. Contrapunctus V uses a new rhythmic version of the subject, in both its original and inverted forms. Contrapunctus IX introduces a quickly flowing subject that is used as a counterpoint to the now familiar original one.

The second of Bach's orchestral Suites was originally written for flute and strings, and its last movement is not a dance but a Badinerie, a playful movement that takes its name from the French word for banter, joke or jest.

Bach spent nine years as a young musician in the city of Weimar, as organist to the reigning Duke. Concertos were then a new kind of "modern" music that was just arriving in Germany from Italy, and Vivaldi was the great master of the form. As a way of studying Vivaldi's Concertos, Bach arranged several of them as organ pieces. While he was about it, Bach also made organ arrangements of two violin concertos by a young and gifted noble amateur, his pupil, Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimer, a member of the ruling family, who died at the age of nineteen. It is so good a piece that for years it was catalogued as a composition by the great Bach himself. It is a major work in three movements, set in fast-slow-fast sequence.

One of Bach's favorite forms during his years in Weimar consisted of a short prelude followed by a fugue. In this C-Minor pair, originally for organ, the introduction is a free Fantasia, in which there is a fugue-like imitative echoing. The Fugue itself has a contrasting central section based on an ascending theme.

The short Fugue in G Major, with its jig-like rhythm, is a charming work long attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach although there are no documents to authenticate it. The earliest known copy is thought to have belonged to an eighteenth-century composer named F. W. Rust who was a pupil of Bach's oldest son. Rust's grandson, in the nineteenth century, held Bach's old post as Leipzig organist and edited the first attempt at a complete edition of the master's compositions. This may seem to be authority enough — except that the Bach son was a very untrustworthy character who, among other things, passed off one of his father's Vivaldi arrangements as his own composition, and furthermore, young Rust played a notorious hoax on the musical world by rewriting his grandfather's compositions and then claiming that they were a hundred years ahead of their time in style and expression. Artistic talent did not, alas, guarantee high ethical standards — at least in these cases.

The Overture or Suite for Strings in G Minor is another pleasant piece associated with the name of Johann Sebastian Bach and good enough to have been published as his work although it is not absolutely certain that he wrote it. It opens with a typical slow-fast first movement, Larghetto, and then Un poco allegro. Next is a Torneo, which may have been either a circling round dance or a competitive dance like a "tournament:' An Aria, Adagio, follows, and then a Minuet with a contrasting Trio, after which the Minuet is repeated. The last movement is a witty Capriccio or "Caprice."

Orchestra Suite No. I, in C Major (without its Overture) ends this recorded program. The first dance is a French Courante, with quick, running steps. When the dances come in pairs, as with the gavottes that follow, the first one is repeated after the second has been played. The fourth movement is a Forlane, which was originally a Venetian gondoliers' dance characterized by a rocking rhythm that suggests the gentle motion of a boat. The fifth movement, a pair of Minuets, is followed by the liveliest dances in the Suite, a pair of Bourrees from the French Auvergne region. The Suite closes with an interesting pair of Passepieds. This is a French peasant dance from Brittany that was taken up at the court of Louis XIIl at Versailles and then found its way into art music.

Copyright © 1989 by Leonard Burkat

THE AMHERST SAXOPHONE QUARTET has performed extensively throughout the United States appearing at many of the country's major concert halls and chamber music venues.

The Quartet performs the standard works composed for saxophone quartet. In addition to this large repertoire, it has developed a unique library of manuscripts which includes many commissions, and also music of the Baroque era, Jazz, Avant Garde, and Ragtime. The group's close association with renowned composer-pianist Eubie Blake culminated in a recording of his delightful Rags.

Along with a busy chamber music schedule, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet has appeared as guest soloist with the Buffalo and Rochester Philharmonics.

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet began rehearsing in January of 1978, and is now in its eleventh season with the same personnel. The Quartet was awarded Chamber Music America Residency Grants for the 1985-86 through 1987-88 seasons. Chamber Music Americas aim in making grants is to provide seed money for a permanent residency. The co-hosts during that first year were the City of Buffalo and the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1987 the members Amherst Saxophone Quartet joined the faculty of Buffalo State College where they are now in-residence and perform a yearly concert series.

In addition to their concert appearances they have been broadcast nationally on St. Paul Sunday Morning, NPR's "Music in Washington" from the Kennedy Center and NBC T.V.'s TONIGHT SHOW.

Amherst Saxophone Quartet's commissioned works include those of composer Nicholas Flagello, Nils Vigeland , Michael Sahl, Earle Brown, and Lucas Foss.

BACH ON SAX
THE AMHERST SAXOPHONE QUARTET

Salvatore Andolina, Soprano
Michael Nascimben, Alto
Stephen Rosenthal, Tenor
Harry Fackelman, Baritone

1 Badinerie (Suite No.2 in B minor), BWV 1067 1:13
2 Overture No.6 in G minor, BWV 1070 17:44
3 Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080, (Nos. 1,3,5,9) 10:50
4 Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 537 8:49
5 Suite No. I in C major, BWV 1066 (Nos. 2-7) 14:56
6 Fugue in G major, BWV 577 2:50
7 Concerto No. I, BWV 592 7:26

TOTAL PLAYING TIME: 64'18"

PRODUCED BY THOMAS FROST
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: THOMAS Z. SHEPARD
ENGINEER: PAUL GOODMAN
RECORDED AT RCA STUDIO A
EDITED AT NEW YORK DIGITAL RECORDING
PROJECT MANAGER: ALEXANDRA SMYTH
COVER DESIGN: VITO FIORENZA

Review

Time Magazine (national, USA)
Monday, April 3, 1989
Critic's Choice
staff

...

 

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet: Bach on Sax
(MCA Classics). Purists beware! Your prejduice against unorthodox instrumentation could be shattered by this surprising set of Bach adaptations that has nothing gimmicky about it but the concept.
...

Badinerie, BWV 1067, Johann Sebastian Bach
Overture No. 6 in g minor BWV 1070, Johann Sebastian Bach
Fantasia and Fugue in c minor BWV 537, Johann Sebastian Bach
Fugue in G Major, BWV 577, Johann Sebastian Bach
Concerto No. 1 BWV 592, Johann Sebastian Bach
Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066, Johann Sebastian Bach
Critic's Choice
Washington Post, The (Washington, DC)
Sunday, April 2, 1989
Classical Recordings
Joseph McLellan

Authentic Instruments: Tried and True [taken from a review of multiple recordings] Let me hasten to add that authentic sound is not the only value in the performance of old music. A prime and current example from MCA Records is Bach on Sax (MCAD-6264),

in which the Amherst Saxophone Quartet performs four items from Art of the Fugue, as well as a half-dozen other instrumental pieces, on instruments that were not even invented until a century after the death of Johann Sebastian Bach. The performances are nonetheless dazzling and imbued with the composers spirit, not only in Art of the Fugue, for which Bach specified no instruments, but in the Badinerie from the Orchestral Suite No. 2, which was written for flute and strings, and in other works composed for organ or string orchestra.

The Art of the Fugue, J.S. Bach
Badinerie, BWV 1067, Johann Sebastian Bach
Overture No. 6 in g minor BWV 1070, Johann Sebastian Bach
Fantasia and Fugue in c minor BWV 537, Johann Sebastian Bach
Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066, Johann Sebastian Bach
Fugue in G Major, BWV 577, Johann Sebastian Bach
Concerto No. 1 BWV 592, Johann Sebastian Bach
Classical Recordings
Seattle Times (Seattle, WA)
Thursday, March 23, 1989
Recordings
Melinda Bargreen

"Bach on Sax:" The Amherst Saxophone Quartet (MCA Classica). What? The master works of J.S. Bach, played on a bunch of saxophones? Your response may be Incredulity, even dismay. But wait until you hear this quirky, charming little gem.

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet disarms you right away with the Badinerie movement of Bach's Ouverture Suite No. 2, which is so fleet, subtle and winning that your Impulse to scoff is Immediatety overturned. By the time you get to the organ Fugue in G Major (the "Jig Fugue") you're likely to feel real admiration for these guys, who, for the record, are soprano sax Salvatore Andolina, alto sax Michaet Nascimben, tenor sax Stephen Rosenthal and baritone sax Harry Fackelman. At times, this group sounds like a quartet of synthesizers; at other times, like a string quartet; and on occasion, you get the distinctively saxy sound that could only come from ... well, four saxophones. Discipline, taste, virtuosity, great breath control and more than 64 minutes of Bach fugues, concertos and suites: Astound your friends.

Recordings

Article

International Musician
Classical, etc.

By Karen Schnackenberg
Bach on Sax

Founded in 1978, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet is the performance arm of the Amherst Saxophone Society, Inc., which was founded to stimulate public interest in, and gain wider acceptance of, saxophone quartet music as an American art form. Now in its 14th season, the ASQ has performed in 30 U.S. states, including concerts at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. Performances have been broadcast nationally on "St. Paul Sunday Morning," NPR's "Music in Washington" from the Kennedy Center, and internationally on "Voice of America." In 1985 the quartet made its national television debut on "The Tonight Show." For nine seasons the group has produced its own concert series of 'recitals, including more than 60 performances in Buffalo and Erie County, New York, each year. More than 100,000 school children have heard the quartet since its inception through the Young Audiences of Western New York.  

TheASQ performs both the classical repertoire as well as the classics of jazz. Recordings include "Mozart to Modern" with Lukas Foss, "Bach on Sax," "ASQ" and "An American Classic—Eubie Blake." The Amherst Saxophone Society's long-term goals include maintaining a permanent repertory quartet of the highest professional caliber and the encouragement of composers to write for saxophone quartet to create a 20th and 21st century repertoire to rival that of the contemporary string quartet.

International Musician: Amherst Saxophone Quartet
Chautauquan Daily
Quartet brings unique music blend to Amp

By Kate Maloney, Staff Writer

If the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's performance is as sharp as spokesman for the group Stephen Rosenthal's tongue, tonight's audience is in for a concert on the cutting edge.

"We're a string quartet with no strings attached," Rosenthal quipped in a recent telephone interview. The Buffalo based quartet — Salvatore Andolina, soprano; Russell Carere, alto; Rosenthal, tenor; and Harry Fackelman, baritone - is currently one of the only fuIltime groups devoted to a large repertoire of chamber music that ranges from classical to jazz to ragtime to modem to "any other music that strikes our fancy," according to Rosenthal.

"We're a strange group," Rosenthal said "We're serious about our repertoire, but we also like to have some serious fun." Part of the fun comes from the good relationship between the audience and entertainers that is promoted both by the group's informality onstage and by Rosenthal's running commentary on the music. What one critic has called his "front parlor humor" is right on the mark, since chamber music was really created as parlor entertainment for royalty.

Their now-extensive repertoire was fairly unknown before the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's inception in 1978. Since then, the quartet's impressive appearances from Carnegie Hall to "The Tonight Show" have let people know just what a sax, let alone four, can do.

It's especially interesting to hear the group's treatment of Bach and Mozart, whose compositions pre-date the invention of the saxophone. Their first album, "Bach on Sax," received rave reviews, including Time Magazine's "Critic's Choice." The ensemble finds that although Baroque music transcribes well, they don't often work with well-known compositions. "We wouldn't want to offend the composer," Rosenthal said.

The late Eubie Blake was one of the few exceptions. "We had his blessing," Rosenthal said of the ragtime master who music has become a trademark of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet. "They play my music the way I meant it to be," Rosenthal recalled Blake saying before his death in 1983. Their snappy tune "Eubie Dubie" pays tribute to him on their second album, "Mozart to Modern."

This 1990 release documents the group's movement into somewhat uncharted territory. Pianist Lukas Foss' "Saxophone Quartet," written expressly (or the Amherst Saxphone Quartet, blends neoclassic and jazz styles in an effort to avoid the stereotypical saxophone sounds. "Definitely a disk with sax appeal," said a critic from The New York Times - an appropriate reference in light of another piece written for the group by Pittsburgh-based contemporary composer David Stock titled, "Sax Appeal."

The imaginative side of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, what one reviewer called a "nose for innovation," just might be due to the limited amount of literature for saxophone quartet. The group has used this limitation to their advantage, recently sponsoring a competition that resulted in more than 200 compositions for their unique Quartet. This summer, Rosenthal said the group would be working on all such music written for them.

It's been a busy summer so far for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet. Last Sunday June 30, they made their second appearance at Carnegie Hall with Bobby Short, who first heard the quartet in 1980. "He invited us to play at private party in his apartment. We thought we'd just be background music, but it turned out to be a half hour command performance for the planners of the JVC Jazz Fest!" Rosenthal laughs. This summer will mark the ninth season of their concert series in Buffalo; the will also play their first concert series in Pittsburgh.

The quartet has resided in Buffalo since they received a three-year residency grant from Chamber Music America in 1985. Rosenthal called the grant "seed money to establish permanent residence," which the group certainly has done, with help from continued funding from the city. "We are technically artists-in-residence in the city itself," Rosenthal said.

"We perform more in Buffalo because we have this funding — at the normal venues and literally almost anywhere people want us to play."

"We bring music to where people are, since it seem like people today aren't going where the music is," Rosenthal said.

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet will bring their music to Chautauqua tonight exactly three years to the day after their first appearance in 1986.

Amherst Sax Quartet: Quartet brings unique music blend to Amp