Quality shows

Works reviewed: 
The Art of the Fugue, J.S. Bach
Motherless Child Variations (2002), Perry Goldstein
Quartet for Four Saxophones (1989), Anita D. Perry
Making the Frozen Serpent Dance (2001), Davide Zannoni
Yuppieville Rodeo (1993), Mike Mower
Phantom Melos, Rocco DiPietro
Buffalo News, The
Buffalo, NY
Nov 22 2002
Jan Jezioro

Earlier this year, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet was knocked out of their position as quartet-in-residence at the University at Buffalo, not for any reason that was based on their level of artistic accomplishment (round up the usual weak-kneed suspects: budgetary shortfall, etc.). Thursday evening, at their Allen Hall concert, broadcast live on WBFO, the ASQ clearly demonstrated by their high performance level that they were by no means ready to throw in the towel.

In this concert, the second in their current season, the ASQ played to their strenght, with a program heavily weighted towards recently written, listener-friendly, music. Yes, the program began with three arrangements from "The Art of the Fugue" by Bach. The ASQ played the pieces seamlessly — no surprise, since the pieces have been a part of their repertory for a long time, having appeared on their best-selling CD.

The performance really took off, though, with the American premiere of "Motherless Child Variations" by Perry Goldstein. Based on the spiritual of the same name, Goldstein's highly innovative treatment of the tune, through the course of six variations, never obscures the original song. Each of the members of the quartet got a chance to have their say, as the piece moved from its somber beginning through the blues into a swing jazz mode after a brief, funky stopover.

"Phantom Melos," by Rocco DiPietro, was composed on top of a tall downtown building, for the centenial of the City of Buffalo, as the composer tried to imagine all the people who had walked the streets below in days gone by. Beginning with long, drawn-out notes, each of the players got to perform solos in the forlorn opening before the piece solidified into a ghostly, off-kilter march that nicely captured a sense of nostalgia for the past.

The opening movement of "Quartet for Four Saxophones" by Anita Perry, a classically composed work, was an engagingly played lyrical song. The andante invoked a lonely feel, but more one of pastoral wandering than urban angst. The humorously written scherzo was played with the appropriate galumphing qualtiy, while the high energy playing of the ASQ pushed the final rollicking rondo movement to an exciting finish.

"Making the Frozen Serpent Dance" by Davide Zannoni started out strongly enough, with short songlike fragments developed over edgy, nervous figures in "The Serpent." The middle section, "The Frozen," by way of contrast, was a dead patrol interlude. The finale, "The Dance," relied too heavily on a pastiche of popular tunes to provide an effective conclusion to the piece.

"Yuppieville Rodeo" by Mike Mower was a short, highly entertaining piece that featured a down and dirty growling duo for tenor and baritone, highlighted by a screaming alto solo — a great way to end the evening.