Nine Waltzes and an Ecossaise (1991), Nils Vigeland

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Nine Waltzes and an Ecossaise (1991), Nils Vigeland
Year of Composition: 1991     Composed for the ASQ

Review

Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Thursday, April 23, 1998
Saxophone Quartet, going to school
Herman Trotter

Iroquois High School was host, on Wednesday evening, to the first of four concerts concluding the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's 1997 -98 season, and also to the premiere performance of a work by a member of the Iroquois senior class, Nathan Bisco.

The concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Friday in Slee Hall on the DB North Campus, at 7 p.m. May 4 in Olmsted School 56, and at 8 p.m. May 13 in the Bijou Grille.

The theme of the concerts is Fast Forward, as the quartet looks to the future with five new works, after having opened with three pieces written for them over the past two decades.

Particularly in this location, Bisco's "Down This Dark Road" became the center of attention, and deserved it. The 10-minute work is confidently developed, with a remarkably mature sense of voice movement and varying textures, plus extremely effective but not overworked use of brief silences as a structural element.

As the title suggests, the music could be considered a narrative, with a pensive, questioning opening answered with dissonances that pique the curiosity. The soprano points the way into a wandering section with mysterious side noises, followed by a fast section suggesting running away from some threat and accelerating to a brisk staccato gait.

Again the soprano points to a calmer journey with unusual low register alto sonorities, and a baritone solo guiding the way to an intensifying development and an expansively ruminating conclusion. It's an impressive Opus 1 for Bisco, given a very fine performance.

The concert had opened with Robert Mols' 1981 "Enchainment," with its warm harmonies, smooth-as-silk textures, and mixture of classical and jazz ambience, followed by David Stock's 1990 "Sax Appeal," whose four movements intriguingly evoked everything from 1940s big band flavors to a variety of noodly, pulsing, herky-jerky rhythms in incessant motion.

Nils Vigeland's 1991 "Nine Waltzes and an Ecossaise," reportedly a tribute to Schubert, saluted the composer with bizarre but not irreverent extrapolations of conventional waltz rhythms and lilts.

The immaculate ensemble stood out in the concluding new jazz arrangements, particularly Steve Parisi's attractive and tightly rhythmic "Academy Street," a soulful arrangement of Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss," and Russ Carere's "All Right Blues," with 1940s big band riffs, wonderful walking bass lines, ping-ponging of phrases among the instruments, and a wild glissando ending.

Down this Dark Road, Nathan Bisco
Enchainment (1981), Robert Mols
Nine Waltzes and an Ecossaise (1991), Nils Vigeland
All Right Blues (1996), Russ Carere
Saxophone Quartet, going to school
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Monday, October 7, 1991
Sax quartet, percussionists join in 4 world premieres
Herman Trotter

An ephemeral quality seemed almost inadvertently to dominate much of this season opener by the nationally acclaimed, Buffalo-based Amherst Saxophone Quartet.

It was a very attractive program, with four world premieres included: two each by Nils Vigeland, a Buffalo native now an important cog in New York City's contemporary music scene, and by Russ Carerc, the quartet's alto saxophonist.

Chalk up another first time presentation for tenor saxophonist Stephen Rosenthal's transcription of the Wind Quartet in E-Flat. Op. 8 No, 2 by Karl Stamitz. The work is a couple of hundred years old. but this was the first airing of Rosenthal's arrangement for saxes.

Brevity and charm mingled in equal measure here. Its three movements are, successively, light and buoyant, gently lilting and plaintive, and brimming with bouncing vitality. The performance seemed to catch those qualities with great fidelity and a casual stance that made one yearn for just a little extension of the teasingly short piece.

Also gone before you really got your ear attuned to them were the 15 short movements that make up Vigeland's two premiered works. His "Nine Waltzes and an Ecossaise" is scored for sax ensemble alone, is said to be a tribute to Schubert, and is composed in the highly accessible but spikily adventurous tonal language which has evolved in Vigcland's mature years.

But I couldn't finish taking notes for one movement before the next was on top of me. Taking five consecutive movements at random, here's what my foreshortened notes say: "Staccato with dissonant final chord, Stravinskyish; Spatial off-beat noodling: Sonorous and slickly glistening: Chattery and short: Intoxicatedly improvisatory."

For Vigeland's other premiere, "Ives Music Two," the Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble joined the Amherst crew, adding vibraphones, chimes, drums and cymbals to the reedy texture. With only five movements, I expected a bit more expansive treatment, but these pieces, too, seemed to vanish before you could get a good fix on them.

An alleged meeting of lves and Gershwin at Westminster Bridge seemed to get shrouded in the London fog. with the vibraphones overshadowed for the most part. Most successful was "Samantha Smith," a recollection of the American girl made famous by her letter to Yuri Andropov. Here, over a gently clangorous cantus firmus. the soprano sax invoked full participation of its three reed colleagues in an ingeniously shaped movement which rode out on an insistent rat-a-tat on the glockenspiel.

Carere's two works, also very brief, were pure jazz, written for two of his sons. An electronic drum track detracted from the very upbeat "Just-In," while "Rustle Bustle," a bit slower and more suave, seemed to reflect the flavor of classic popular tunes of the 1930s.

Slightly more substantial was Sal Andolina's arrangement of Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," breezily wailing in a jumpy, lyrical West Coast style, with a big soprano solo at its center.

This left Bernard Hoffer's 1974 Variations on a Theme of Stravinsky (from "Petrouchka") as the only work on the program of substantial length and with a consistent focus, The variations ranged from a noodly conversational quality to pointillist textures, scalar canonic passages, tolling triad repetitions, and many free running improvisatory sounding sections, all fired by a genuine lyric impulse. The performance of this difficult work was impeccable.

Wind Quartet in Eb Major, Op. 8 #2, Karl Stamitz
Nine Waltzes and an Ecossaise (1991), Nils Vigeland
Ives Music Two (1991), Nils Vigeland
Just In, Russ Carere
Rustle Bustle, Russ Carere
Sax quartet, percussionists join in 4 world premieres

Composer Biography

1950 —

Nils Vigeland was born in Buffalo, New York, and made his professional debut as a pianist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969. He has maintained a dual career as both composer and performer. The founder of the Bowery Ensemble, a new music group which presents an annual series of concerts at Cooper Union, NYC, he gave the first performance with Eberhard Blum of Morton Feldman's For Christian Wolff at the Darmstadt Summer Course for New Music in the summer of 1985. Recent performances of his own music have included One Three Five by the Buffalo Philharmonic and Piano Concert by the Oslo Radio Orchestra.