I Sugo (2000), Stephen Parisi

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I Sugo (2000), Stephen Parisi
Year of Composition: 2000     Composed for the ASQ


Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Saturday, March 25, 2000
Sax life of Riley is boring
Herman Trotter

The final concert on the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's 1999-2000 series, in UB's Slee Hall, explores works composed specifically for the ensemble.

Two works received world premieres. concluding with Stephen Parisi's "I Sugo." Scored as a quintet for saxes and marimba, played by Raymond Bennett, the gently clattering marimb provided a textural expansion of ensemble sonority which, it must be said, was quite welcome after the rather tiresome expanse of the other new work, Terry Riley's "Mandala Miniatures."

Riley's 16 movements may have consumed only 28 minutes, but their passing in such rapid succession left the feeling that he had manv good ideas, but didn't take the time to develop them. There wasn't one of the movements that was in any way unpleasant, but the continuum just got boring.

By contrast, Parisi's "I Sugo" offered unusual sonic blends in the first movement, where Harry Fackelman's baritone sax and Bennett's marimba engaged in an extended, minimalist dialogue over a repeated theme of halting character. This gave way to the quite lovely effect of a richly scored chorale melody for the four reeds that the marimba embroidered with discreet trills.

The jazzy pulse of the Scherzo finale, with some punctuating jabs by the marimba and a renegade sax concluded the piece on a happily upbeat note.

Over the years, one of the most satisfying of the ASQ's commissions has been Andrew Stiller's 1983 Chamber Symphony, reprised to open this concert. Its gritty integrity is established in the first movement's hard-charging, high-stepping theme, which is contrasted by quarter tone excursions whose dissonance threatens dissolution of the u,u ement, but is swept aside by the dogged main theme.

The slow movement's rich harmonization of a simple folk theme and its occasional modal flavors offer an interlude of exceptional beauty, followed by a mocking Menuetto of pulsing tread, which gives off Kurt Weill flavors, and a final Presto that flies. along repetitively, with some convulsive gurgling sounds like musical indigestion, and a concluding eruption with oblique vocal references to the Mount St. Helens cataclysm.

Here and in Chan Ka Nin's 1989 Saxophone Quartet, the ASQ performances were dazzling in both their technical and interpretive aspects. The form of Nin's work, which won the ASQ's '91 Competition, is intriguing in its inexorable progression from thorny, jagged lines and wide interval leaps to progressively calmer and more sonorous terrain. Throughout, the listener's ear is kept alert by unusual effects such as overarching wails and warbling textures.

I Sugo (2000), Stephen Parisi
Mandala Miniatures (2000), Terry Riley
Chamber Symphony for Saxophone Quartet, Andrew Stiller
Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin
Sax life of Riley is boring

Composer Biography

1955 —

STEPHEN PARISI (b. 1955) was born in Buffalo to music loving parents who started him on piano at the age of seven. By the time he was 10 he had already written over 50 compositions. His passion for music and ambition to become a composer led him to the University at Buffalo on a full Fine Arts Scholarship. He studied piano with Yvar Mikhashoff and composition with Leo Smit and obtained a Masters of Fine Arts in Music degree. He has written numerous works for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet. Two movements of his Saxophone Quartet No.1 were performed by the ASQ at Carnegie Hall in 1982. His music is characterized by facility, heartfelt melodies, syncopated rhythms, counterpoint, and lush jazz harmonies.


Buffalo News, The
Saucy premiere

Buffalo-based composer Stephen Parisi has written a new work entitled "I Sugo," which will be premiered by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet (above) during its 8 p.m. concert Thursday in Slee Hall on the UB North Campus. The concert will be repeated at 7:30 next Friday in Westminster Presbyterian Church, while an abbreviated version of the program will be presented at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Allen Hall, UB South Campus, on the regular weekly Opus: Classics Live series'. It turns out "lSugo" means "Sauce;" and given Parisi's insidereputation as a fantastic chef, the new work may well hold succulent treats served up Dr Parisi the musical chef. The overall program is called "ASQ Creations," and features music written for or commissioned by the ~ax ensemble. Also receiving its world premiere performance will be "Mandala Miniatures" by Terry Riley, reportedly containing 16 petite movements in a 28-minute work, Completing the program will be Andrew Stiller's 1983 Chamber Symphony and Chan Ka Nin's 1989 Saxophone Quartet, winner of the ASQ's 1991 International Composition Contest.
— Herman Trotter

ASQ, Saucy premiere