Lament on the Death of Music, Leila Lustig

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Lament on the Death of Music, Leila Lustig
Year of Composition: 1984     Composed for the ASQ

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Lament on the Death of Music
Amherst Saxophone Quartet: Lament on the Death of Music
Salvatore Andolina, soprano
Russ Carere, alto
Stephen Rosenthal, tenor
Harry Fackelman, baritone
Christine Schadeberg, Soprano (voice)

Notes on the Compositions

Several common threads are woven throughout the fabric of this, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's fifth recording. As it happens, it is something of a 'theme album', — a creature more common to rock than to 'serious' music.

All the compositions were written in the last few years and take on the question of what 'classical music' is (or may be) at the end of the 20th century. All were composed for the ASQ or submitted as entries in its International Saxophone Quartet Composition Competition.

Leila Lustig read an editorial in The New York Times suggesting that Western music might be dead. Being a composer, she felt the only sensible response to this 'news' was to write an oxymoronic lament on the death of music.

Chan Ka Nin's music may be said to embody a classical harmonic aesthetic, but this does not mean that it speaks the 'harmonic language' of say, Mozart. Chan is interested in the harmony of human beings attaining unanimity of purpose and friendship — both necessary ingredients in the playing of chamber music. In this respect, his quartet can be considered 'classical' in Eastern as well as Western senses.

Anita Perry's Quartet is deliberately neoclassical, both in its four-movement form — Sonata allegro, Rondo, etc. — and in its harmonic idiom.

Finally, Andrew Stiller's Chamber Symphony adheres strictly to forms common in Haydn's and Beethoven's day to comment on both the classical style and the music of today.

Each of these compositions makes use of bent or altered pitch, a feature uncommon in the repertory. Lustig calls for the saxophones to groan in a quasi-blues style. Chan has individual saxophones sliding pitches up and down in a subtle and magical way that is quite distinct from the jazz vernacular. Perry uses pitch in a burlesque manner, taking her 'Scherzo' (joke) literally. Stiller calls for extensive use of quarter-tones, which are not, strictly speaking, 'bent' pitches but rather tones halfway between the steps of the normal scale. Since saxophones, like most other instruments, are not built to play quarter-tones, a new and intricate fingering system had to be devised.

Stiller's first movement takes the form of a classical Sonata Allegro. In this form, the second theme is traditionally in the dominant - the key five scale tones up from the key of the first theme, or tonic. This shift in tonality, or modulation, was readily apparent to concert audiences two hundred years ago, but may not be noticed by contemporary ears. To address this perceptual problem, Stiller chooses to modulate up one quarter-tone. Moreover, the modulation is accomplished one voice at a time. Hence three voices are sometimes in one key while the fourth voice is a quarter-tone away. The effect this produces, which can sound like very questionable intonation, has caused intense reactions — of both annoyance and amusement — in listeners. But no one mistakes the arrival of the new key. Quarter-tones are used again, but more sparingly, in Stiller's third and fourth movements.

Humor is never far away on this recording. It is a marvel that soprano Christine Schadeberg is able to enunciate so clearly, considering Leila Lustig's instructions to the singer to "place tongue firmly in cheek." Chan's music falls squarely under the heading of Good Humor; as his piece progresses, friendliness and even joviality bubble forth. Perry's Scherzo is vaudevillian slapstick, even calling for some sight gags (which may work better on the recording than they do in live performance), Stiller's Symphony displays many colors and shades of humor, from the multiple palindromes to the sardonic quotation just before the end.

Finally, these four works are unusual among the several hundred in the ASQ's repertory in calling for a human voice. Lustig's piece is scored for four saxophones and soprano. Chan asks for a chanted note of contentment from three of the quartet's members over a baritone saxophone pedal. Perry, at one point, has five people speaking. (The fifth voice belongs to the recording's producer, Judith Sherman, here making her performing debut.) The words shouted in Stiller's last movement signal: I) the final return of the Rondo theme. 2) the end of the movement, 3) the end of the Chamber Symphony, and 4) the end of the recording. (The quote was reportedly the last radio transmission of a young geologist stationed atop Mt. St. Helens on the wrong day.) - Stephen Rosenthal

The Composers

Leila Sarah Lustig was born in Louisville, Kentucky. She studied voice and composition at UCLA (AB, MA) and the University of Wisconsin at Madison (PhD). Leila worked for a number of years as a coach-accompanist, then turned to producing music for public radio stations. Since moving to Canada in 1987, she has worked as an arts publicist and marketer, and in public relations at Brock University. While Ms. Lustig has composed for all media, her main focus is the human voice. Her other work for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet is "The Language of Bees." She recently has provided music for two theatrical productions.

Chan Ka in was born in Hong Kong in 1949, and moved with his family to Vancouver, Canada, in 1965. While pursuing a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the University of British Columbia, he studied composition with Jean Coulthard. After graduation he undertook further studies in music with Bernhard Heiden at Indiana University, obtaining master's and doctoral degrees in composition. Since 1982 he has been Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, teaching music theory and composition.

Dr. Nin won the Bela Bartok International Composers' Competition in 1982 with his String Quartet No.2. His other awards include the Barlow International Chamber Music Competition (1991), the International Horn Society Composition Contest (1982), the Alienor Harpsichord Composition Award (1986), the James Madison University Flute Choir Composition (1988), PROCAN Young Composers' Competition (1979), the Violet Archer Orchestral Prize, and the Vancouver New Music Society's Orchestral Composition Contest (1976).

Anita (AD.) Perry has long been fascinated with sound and as a child spent countless hours listening to her grandfather's 78's of symphonic and orchestra! music. She started I her formal musical training at the age of eight, and later studied piano with Lee Kum Sing and composition with Cortland Hultberg at the University of British Columbia, She has won several awards for her compositions and has had works performed in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Ms. Perry prefers not to write "avant garde" music but rather that which "more directly expresses and communicates emotion and feeling." Her commissions have ranged from a children's ballet to a double concerto for violin and clarinet; she has also completed two albums of electronic music: White Dreams and Inspirations.

Andrew Stiller (b. 1946, Washington, D.c.) studied with Lejaren Hiller and Morton Feldman at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In the 1970's he was a member of Lukas Foss's Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, performing his own and other I avant garde works at Carnegie Hall, in Buffalo, and on tour. He also performed with the Decapod Wind Quintet, the Age of Reason Baroque Ensemble, the Buffalo New Music Ensemble, and Network for New Music. In 1991 he founded Kallisti Music Press, which published his own music as well as that of Hiller and the early American composer Anthony Philip Heinrich. Stiller is the author of a critically-acclaimed Handbook of Instrumentation, and his writings on musical topics have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Opus, Musical America, Musical Quarterly, and the New Grove Dictionary of Opera.

The Performers

Christine Schadeberg, Soprano
With a repertoire spanning four centuries, soprano Christine Schadeberg enjoys a remarkable and varied career. She has performed with chamber ensembles and orchestras across the United States and Europe, and has premiered over 100 works by emerging composers, many written especially for her. Also in great demand as a recitalist, she has won special recognition for her interpretation of American song.

Ms. Schadeberg has performed under the batons of such noted composers as Gunther Schuller, Lukas Foss, and Luciano Berio, and created the leading role in the opera The Mysteries of Eleusis, written for her by composer Joel Feigin. She is a member of the Naumberg Award-winning Jubal Trio, and concertizes with them across the United States in a broad repertoire for soprano, flute and harp. She can be heard on the CRI, Opus One, Bridge and Orion Master labels; recent recordings include Elliott Carter's A Mirror On Which To Dwell.

Amherst Saxophone Quartet
The Amherst Saxophone Quartet, one of the leading professional ensembles of its kind in the world, divides its time between touring and a residency at the University at Buffalo and in Buffalo and Erie County, New York.

Formed in January, 1978, the ASQ is currently celebrating its 21st full season. It has played in Japan, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, and, in the U.S., from Maine to Hawaii. Concert highlights include appearances in Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Chautauqua Institution, and broadcasts on National Public Radio, "St. Paul Sunday," the Voice of America, and NBC-TV's "Tonight Show."

The ASQ was awarded Chamber Music America Residency Grants for three seasons beginning in 1985-86, and First Prize for Adventuresome Programming from CMAIASCAP in 1993. The ensemble has received commissioning prizes from CMA, NYSCA, and the NEA.

In addition to this lnnova recording, the ASQ has recorded albums for MCA Records, Musical Heritage Society, and Mark Records. These include another recording of new American music, an all-Bach album, an all-Eubie Blake disc, and a collaboration with Lukas Foss. In 1997, the ensemble released a videotape, ASQKids, one of the first of its kind introducing children to chamber music. The Quartet has been a performing member of Young Audiences of WNY since 1979, and has worked with young people's programs at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Aesthetic Education Institute (Rochester, N.Y.), and Arts in Education (Buffalo, N.Y.). The members of the ASQ are clinicians for the Selmer Company and Vandoren Reed Products.

The ensemble's long-term goals include maintaining a permanent ensemble of the highest international caliber and encouraging composers to create for saxophone quartet a 2Oth- and 21st-century repertory comparable to that for the string quartet.

Salvatore Andolina, soprano, was a founding member of the ASQ. He studied saxophone with Edward Yadzinski and John Sedola and clarinet with James Pyne and Stanley Hasty. He received a BFA in Music from SUNY at Buffalo. Mr. Andolina is a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and has performed with the Artpark Orchestra and the Creative Associates.

Russ Carere, alto, studied saxophone with John Sedola, and clarinet with James East while attending SUNY at Fredonia. Since 1978, Mr. Carere has performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Artpark Orchestra, and for major musicals in the Western New York area. He joined the ASQ in January of 1990. An avid composer, he has written 13 Jazz and Ragtime works for the ASQ, and has released a solo CD of his original music.

Stephen Rosenthal, tenor, is a founding member of the ASQ. He studied saxophone with Edward Yadzinski and John Sedola, and clarinet with James Pyne. He received a BFA in Music Performance from SUNY at Buffalo, and has performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Rosenthal serves on the boards of Chamber Music America and the American Composers Forum, and has been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Harry Fackelman, baritone, is a founding member of the ASQ. He studied saxophone with Edward Yadzinski and clarinet with Allen Sigel. He received an MFA in Music from SUNY at Buffalo. Mr. Fackelman has performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

This recording is dedicated to the memory of Eleanor V. Millonzi. CD design by Stephen Rosenthal. The cover art was created using 3DStudio Max R2.5, Raygun2, and Photoshop. Recording released courtesy of MCA Classics, under license from Universal Music Special Markets, Inc. Thanks to the Board of The Amherst Saxophone Society, Inc., Michael McGee, and Michael Burke. Program notes edited by Larry Fuchsberg. 1. Lament on the Death (9:34), Leila Lustig 2. Saxophone Quartet (13:21), Chan Ka Nin 3. Quartet for Saxophones, Anita D. Perry

  1. Allegro (4:16)
  2. Andante Sostenuto (3:59)
  3. Scherzo (3:40)
  4. Rondo (3:36)

4. Chamber Symphony for Saxophone Quartet, Andrew Stiller

  1. Allegro (6:50)
  2. Mayn Rue Plats (7:48)
  3. Menuetto, feroce (2:56)
  4. Presto (6:25)


Buffalo News, The (Buffalo, NY)
Monday, March 25, 2002
Amherst Saxophone Quartet
Jan Jezioro

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet concluded its Westminster Presbyterian season Friday evening with a flourish, in a program that included both a world premiere and a special guest, soprano Dora Ohrenstein.

An arrangement of the Prelude and Fugue V, from Book II of Bach's "Well-tempered Clavier," helped establish the tone for the first half of the evening. The well-blended sound was evident in the celebratory opening Prelude, while their stately measured playing of the Fugue dissolved the sense of the present.

"The Seven Churches of Easter, Richmond 1984," jointly commissioned from composer Tayloe Harding by the Amherst quartet and two other quartets, was given its world premiere. This substantial, episodic work is based on the composer's impressions and associations of the churches that he visited in the Easter season of his father's death.

"Seven Churches" is an effective composition for the relatively homophonic sound texture of saxophone quartet, composed with enough variety to sustain listener interest for its half-hour-plus length.

The actively contemplative treatment of the medieval hymn in the opening "All Saints" was nicely contrasted by up-tempo "preaching" in "St. John's." A beautifully full, harmonic low range sound was developed in "St. James," while the memory of Robert E. Lee kneeling down to pray with a former slave provided the happy inspiration for "St. Paul's," the most innovatively written movement.

Leila Lustig's "Lament on the Death of Music" is her witty reply to a newspaper article. Soprano Ohrenstein displayed dramatic flair while declaiming the tongue-in-cheek text that worried back, from Stravinsky, to Debussy, to Wagner, to Chopin, to Beethoven, before reversing the loop, with musical fragments from each serving as underpinning.

Ohrenstein answered her final high note in the questioning phrase, "Is music really dead?" with a girlish, little-voiced, "I guess not," quietly proving the composer's point.

The quartet quickly established a restless feeling, punctuated by outbursts, in the instrumental opening Allegro of Calvin Hampton's "The Labyrinth," composed after a poem by Calvin Abreu. The composer makes good use of some counterintuitive effects in the following Andante movement, where Ohrenstein's singing helped illuminate this poem. Her pointed treatment of the text, both a capella and accompanied, always stood out against the instrumental background.

Prelude and Fugue No. 5 in D major from Book II, Johann Sebastian Bach
The Seven Churches of Easter, Richmond 1984 (2002), Tayloe Harding
Lament on the Death of Music, Leila Lustig
Labyrinth, Calvin Hampton
Buffalo News, The (Buffalo, NY)
Wednesday, March 11, 1998
Amherst Saxophone Quartet at 20: a local treasure still going strong
Jim Santella

Zen masters see the world in a grain of sand. The Amherst Saxophone Quartet creates a universe of music with the intersection of soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones.

Members of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet are soprano Salvatore Andolina, alto Russell Carere, tenor Stephen Rosenthal, and baritone Herry Fackelman.

Sunday afternoon in UB's Slee Hall, the quartet threw a 20th-birthday bash, and everyone showed up, from friends and relatives to music lovers, composers, musicians and fans to support their longevity and wondrous achievement.

A snippet of melody on soprano during Philip Glass Facade reminded me of The Impossible Dream from Man of LaMancha. It put the formidable success of the quartet in perspective. That song, subtitled The Quest, could stand for the quartet's mission statement.

Although saxophones are traditionally associated with jazz and pop, the quartet plays both traditional and contemporary chamber music, along with blues and jazz.

The quartet has recorded six albums for MCA Records, Musical Heritage Society and Mark records. These include two recordings of American music, an all-Bach album, an all-Eubie Blake disc, a collaboration with Lukas Foss and a recent jazz recording. Why is the Amherst Saxophone Quartet so successful? The members have a strong sense of humor to go along with an exacting technique and dedication to excellence.

They are a local treasure that often gets ignored when gold medals and Super Bowl talk is bandied about. They are musically of Olympian caliber.

Tenor saxophonist Rosenthal's glib commentary and lighthearted humor make the music accessible to almost anyone regardless of their musical background.

Composer Perry Goldstein was in the audience to hear the quartet's performance of his Blow! -- a rawboned tour de force that gave each player a chance to shine both in ensemble and solo sections.

The liquid sound, intonation and dynamic expressiveness inherent in the quartets mastery of chamber music were very mush in evidence in Sergei Prokofiev's sweetly appealing Romeo and Juliet Suite 2, transcribed by Fackelman.

A wry and ironic Lament on the Death of Music, written by Leila Lustig and composed for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, featured lyric-coloratura soprano Teresa Williams.

Lustig's witty text, a veritable musical whodunit, pointed the finger at every great composer from Mozart to Chopin, to Wagner and Stravinsky.

She finally concluded that the reports of the demise of classical music were greatly exaggerated.

Fun-filled encores of Carere's All Right Blues, complete with choreography, and a jaunty version of Eubie Blake's Charleston Rag sent everyone heading for the exit with a smile on their face and a light step.

Lament on the Death of Music, Leila Lustig
Romeo and Juliet Suite 2, Sergei Prokofiev
All Right Blues (1996), Russ Carere
Sounds of Africa (Charleston Rag), Eubie Blake
Amherst Saxophone Quartet at 20: a local treasure still going strong

Composer Biography

LEILA SARAH LUSTIG was born in Louisville, Kentucky. She studied voice and composition at UCLA and received her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. She worked for a number of years as a coach-accompanist, then turned to producing music for public radio stations. Since moving to Canada in 1987, she has worked as an arts publicist and marketer, and in public relations at a university. While Ms. Lustig has composed for all media, her main focus is the human voice.

Composition Notes

Dr. Lustig writes: I happened to read in The New York Times: "Still, if the pessimistic view is right, and if 'music' means an act of communication between musician and hearer, then our era is near the descending end of a great curve that was Western music. That thought carries with it a sadness that the perennial newness of Mozart can ever lighten but never quite assuage." (Will Crutchfield, July 8, 1984)
Talk about throwing down the gauntlet! After mentally composing a number of letters to the Times editor, I decided the only way to answer his taunt was in music. Something bluesy would be good for saxophones and  voice, and I wrote my own text:
Music died yesterday.
I read it in the News.
She didn't just fade away
Like some forgotten blues.
It must have been homicide ...
The papers didn't say
For certain who killed her ...
Was it Igor Stravinsky,
With his frightening Rite of Spring?
He called it "Sacre";
They called it "sacrilege. "
Or it it Might have been Claude Debussy
Out with his faun
One wan
Or Richard Wagner
Maybe ...Or Chopin;
With his mad chromatic modulations
He may
Have paved
The way
For everything that is going wrong with our tunes today.
Not even Beethoven
Is beyond suspicion !
Wait a minute!
Do you believe everything you read?
Have they ever found the body?
Is music really dead?
I guess not.

Agreeing with Crutchfield about the 'Perennial newness' of Mozart, I composed a little 'Mozart' of my own to begin the piece, which gives way to a blue-note ostinato. Next, it was logical that literal quotes from" revolutionary" works by Stravinsky, Debussy, Wagner, Chopin and Beethoven should telegraph backward along the" great curve." Having arrived almost back at Mozart, though, I found myself stuck: if I was going to refute Crutchfield's pessimistic view, I couldn't just stop here! For many days I gazed balefully at my score. My fickle muse must have been off helping some other composer. Suddenly she returned and blessed me with the obvious answer: turn that "great curve" into a boomerang! I simply rewound my K-Tel Classic Hits, homing back relentlessly through BeethovenChopinWagnerDebussyStravinsky to the present, where music is still alive and kicking. Mozart gets the last word, though, because I think he would have enjoyed the joke.