Quartet for Four Saxophones (1989), Anita D. Perry

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Quartet for Four Saxophones (1989), Anita D. Perry
Year of Composition: 1989    

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Andante Sostenuto


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)
Friday, November 22, 2002
Quality shows
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.

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 (Buffalo, NY)
Tuesday, November 19, 1996
Amherst Saxophone Quartet finds modern music that fills the bill
Herman Trotter

Contemporary music written specifically for four saxophones (no transcriptions) made up the bill of fare for Monday's concert by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet.

Well, there was one transcription, the concluding "Rudy Wiedoeft Suite," which included three pieces for solo sax by Wiedoeft, a sort of father figure in the sax world, arranged for quartet by Ted Hegvik. The outer movements were ragtime infused, played with footloose abandon, and separated by a charming waltz with tantalizingly exaggerated rubato.

There was a consistently high level of quality in this program. When the dust had settled, this listener was left with the confirmation that a previous high opinion of Anita Perry's 1989 Quartet for Four Saxophones still held true.

Perry's work is light in character and delightful to hear, with an especially engaging opening Allegro built on free, almost improvisational running lines over an energizing pulsing beat in the baritone. The lovely, floating, sustained Andante was beautifully controlled and shaped, while Scherzo had an "oompah" quality in its herky-jerky rhythms. There were intricately dovetailing lines in the Finale's rampaging romp.

The sustained soft, transparent textures of Russell Howland's 1976 Saxophone Quartet No. 4 gave the work a French sounding quality. Its crown, I felt, was the slow movement where graceful cantabile lines were woven over a baritone ostinato, then developing into a slow fugue on an ascending scale figure. The free-flowing, improvisational first movement and the energetic Finale, with its whimsical mood changes, marked Howland's work as a winner.

I was also intrigued by Michael Zak's 1996 "As the World Passes Quickly Below Me, I Fly to My Creator." I can't fathom the title, but the music was Interesting, a slow, probing piece of unsettled tonality and a sense of adventure about where it was going. An interesting chirping texture developed, along with a continuing strong sense of progression, if not resolution.

The premiere of a revised version of Dick Hyman's 1984 Scherzo for Saxophone Quartet revealed a modified scherzo form, with many contrasting interludes giving it the feel of a rondo as well.

Foot stomping and hand clapping accompanied a rather brisk, quasi-jazzy, stuttering melodic line in the first movement of David P. Jones 1989 "Mass Transit." A plaintive slow movement and a Finale with lots of cross rhythms and aggressive, hard-edged polyphony concluded the work.

I'm sure that from the inside the quartet's members could point out a number of places where they felt their performances could have been improved.

But from the outside none of this was apparent. Their technique ensemble, and unanimity in matters of phrasing, dynamic and tempo changes and the smallest nuances seemed polished to an extraordinary degree, leaving the comfortable feeling that everything they played was presented in the best possible light.

Rudy Wiedoeft Suite, Rudy Wiedoeft
Quartet for Four Saxophones (1989), Anita D. Perry
Saxophone Quartet No. 4 (1976), Russell Howland
As the World Passes Quickly Below Me, I Fly to My Creator (1996), Michael Zak
Scherzo for Saxophone Quartet (1984), Dick Hyman
Mass Transit (1989), David P. Jones
Amherst Saxophone Quartet finds modern music that fills the bill
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Monday, November 25, 1991
Saxophone Quartet plays Perry prize winner
Herman Trotter

It's hard to characterize this concert succinctly, because in addition to unveiling the third prize winner in the ensemble's composition contest, there was also a world premiere and a quasi premiere. Bear with us.

At the center of the program was the Quartet for Four Saxophones in the Classical Style by British Columbian composer Anita Perry, second runner up in the ASQ's composition competition. The ASQ thinks well enough of this work that it has already been recorded for the ensemble's next MCA compact disc, with release scheduled for next year.

Perry's Quartet is absolutely unpretentious, a lightweight work with ingenuous running lines, quiet mood painting, unashamed horseplay and a lot of canonic chasing. One gets the feeling of honesty and spontaneity. Because of this, the music has a very individual and memorable profile.

On my second exposure I am still enchanted by the pulsing beat Perry uses to buoy up the first movement's repeated rising motif as it courses through a series of satisfying and occasionally unexpected modulations. A similar pulsing figure is used more sparingly to add texture to the slow movement's lovely pastel reverie, while the scherzo takes that word literally. It's a joke, with unexpected pauses, strange intervals and ornamentation, horse laughs and one surprise best left unexplained.

The world premiere was Michael Sahl's 1991 Saxophone Quartet. In the composer's notes he says that the soul of the piece is harmony, but he gives no clues as to its structure.

After a languorous introduction, a jumbly, eccentric allegro emerged, touching off a series of interludes in which all four instruments were almost continually playing, thereby enriching that harmonic soul.

Texturally, these interludes were not all that differentiated one from another, and I had the strong visual imagery of a succession of highly detailed carved wood panels or rich tapestries passing before my eyes, not so much like a theme and variations as a simple parade.

The musical content of these panels/tapestries was highly lyrical, warmly and throbbingly sonorous and it came as something of a jolt when there was a complete break, a resumption in more intimate sonority and slower tempo, followed by a furious prestissimo to conclude.

What's a quasi premiere? Well, it's Verdi's 1873 String Quartet in E minor, which the ASQ has played before, but which was being heard on Sunday in the first performance of a new transcription by quartet members Harry Fackelman and Stephen Rosenthal.

Contrasts abound in this transcription, from the smooth-as-glass opening movement to the jocular Andantino which gradually turns serious and the treacherous Prestissimo third movement.

It was here that the ASQ had its only technical problems of the evening, some of the articulation losing its crispness. It was only a momentary lapse, because in the equally difficult scampering, staccato Finale the ensemble's virtuosity in keeping those precipitous passages clean was remarkable.

Quartet for Four Saxophones (1989), Anita D. Perry
Saxophone Quartet (1991), Michael Sahl
Quartet in e minor, Giuseppe Verdi
Saxophone Quartet plays Perry prize winner
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Monday, April 8, 1991
ASQ finalists create 4 intriguing entries
Herman Trotter

This concert presenting the first group of finalists among new compositions submitted to ASQ's "Great Competition" had a surprisingly interesting overall profile.

That's the property of a movement, a work, or an entire concert which allows it to remain etched in the mind because the music traced an easily perceptible and distinctive pattern or design.

The four works presented, successively: an unpretentious and amiable collection of miniatures; a tightly woven, tense work which moved within narrow dynamic, pitch and textural limits; a neo-classical and highly lyrical work of easy natural charm; and a freely sketched piece working from wild intervals and rhythms to progressively more consonant ground.

When the dust had settled this listener's vote went to the last two works for contributing the most interesting musical experiences of the evening.

The first movement of Quartet for Four Saxophones (in the Classical Style) by Vancouver, B.C. composer Anita Perry was a riveting listening experience. Its step-wise ascents and descents followed by held tones moved in regular modulations to uplifting new harmonic plateaus, all over a nonstop ground of short pulses by the baritone. It was beguilingly simple, yet constantly intriguing.

A good harmonic sense lifted its languid Andante to unexpected emotional levels, while the Scherzo was a real musical joke with its oompah textures brought up short by intervals purposely out of context, intentional distortion, and a sudden halt corrected (after some wisecracks) by turning the score upside down and continuing. The Finale was fast running and complex with some humor of its own, but more restrained.

Toronto composer Chan Ka Nin's one-movement Saxophone Quartet opened with angular lines formed from wide, wild interval leaps and was propelled by a nervous aggressiveness. Textures remained bright and the line often had blurred edges effected by glancing grace notes, glissando attacks and other unusual techniques. Over the l2-minute expanse it gradually retreated to a more sonorous realm, concluding with an almost warbling texture and a surprisingly effective chanted chord.

Judith Dvorkin's eight-movement "Dispositions for Saxophone Quartet" which opened the program was simple and open music, holding a certain naive charm and a few moments to perk up the senses, altogether pleasant but on a somewhat lesser level of musical expectation.

Joseph Jarman of the Art Ensemble of Chicago fame submitted his 1989 Quartet for Saxophones. It opened with slow chordal groping in a very close-knit harmonic context. Although relieved by stuttering reed speech and cascading figures at various points, the music remained rather constricted harmonically, dynamically and lyrically, leaving an uptight feeling in its wake.

An assortment of ASQ signature rags concluded the program, most notably "Jilly Bean Walk" by ASQ alto Russell Carere. The music's erratically wobbly line and oompah bass formed a nice caricature of his young daughter.

Quartet for Four Saxophones (1989), Anita D. Perry
Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin
Dispositions for Saxophone Quartet, Judith Dvorkin
Quartet for Saxophones (1989), Joseph Jarman
Jilly Bean Walk, Russ Carere
ASQ finalists create 4 intriguing entries

Composer Biography

ANITA (A.D.) PERRY has always been fascinated with sound and as a child spent countless hours listening to her grandfather'S 78s of symphonic music. She studied piano and composition at the University of British Columbia. She has won several awards for her compositions and her works have been performed in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. While her fascination with sound has never decreased, A. D. prefers not to write" avant-garde" music, but rather that which honestly expresses and communicates emotion.

Composition Notes

"Quartet for Four Saxophones in the Classical Style was written after hearing a local saxophone quartet in concert. I was impressed with the homogeneity of sound a saxophone quartet could produce as well as the variety of colour and expression inherent in the instruments. The first movement is more or less strictly classical, using sonata allegro form and traditional tonality. The second movement is a typical Adagio (where I allow myself to get all romantic and mushy), but rather impressionistic in flavour. The third movement, Scherzo, is a real joke (I take my scherzi very seriously). The fourth movement, Rondo, is an energetic jig-like finish. Thus, the overall form is that of a classical string quartet, but with the contemporary twist of a few unusual harmonies and of course, the incomparable sound of saxophones." — Anita Perry