Quartet for Saxophones (1987), Elliot A. Del Borgo

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Quartet for Saxophones (1987), Elliot A. Del Borgo
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Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Monday, December 5, 1994
Amherst Saxophone Quartet manages to soften the impact
Thomas Putnam

Consider the impact of a saxophone quartet, which makes a forceful sound that owes much to the brassy and reedy tone of the instruments. That impact owes something, too, to the character of the saxophone, which is not by nature an intimate conversationalist.

Played with the skill of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, music for the ensemble can knock you on the head and leave you smiling. The delicacies of this performing group are therefore much appreciated, as a kind of other side to the coin.

Works by Elliot A. Del Borgo and Tayloe Harding on the first part of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's program Sunday evening were fine examples of saxophone quartet writing that exploits impact. (The program will be repeated this evening at 8 in Slee Concert Hall on the University at Buffalo North Campus, and again Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at the Calumet Arts Cafe.)

Del Borgo's Quartet for Saxophones (1987) recites triplet-driven jazz figures, and completes the exercise in good breeding with a fugal obligation. A slow movement is wonderfully morose, and would satisfy a Russian. The finale is the boldest, outdoor brass sounds tamed. It was a vigorous hit. What also made Del Borgo's piece attractive — what made it the complete coin — was the purified writing for soprano and alto saxophones.

Harding's Quartet for Saxophones (1990) has a more urban-American sound, so there was the old West Side zip, and there was a kind of "down" sound (not really blues) of ponderous and abrasive harmonies. Harding shows signs of a minimalist leaning, which causes him to substitute for fascinating development a deadly repetition. But he whips up from this formula a genuine momentum that perhaps makes the thing convincing.

Paquito D'Rivera's "New York Suite" (1980) in four movements essentially is a jazz score, complete (or should that be incomplete?) with space for improvisations. D'Rivera drills home motivic points, and he must have heard somewhere that a classicist recycles.

The thoroughgoing pleasure was Jean Francaix's "Petit Quatuor pour Saxophones." Here is inventive percolation, insouciance, light brilliance. The French saxophone is a wonderful combination of words. This was a splendid performance by the Amherst, whose players are Salvatore Andolina, Russ Carere, Stephen Rosenthal, and Harry Fackelman.

Quartet for Saxophones (1987), Elliot A. Del Borgo
Quartet for Saxophones (1990), Tayloe Harding
New York Suite (1980), Paquito D'Rivera
Petit Quatuor pour Saxophones, Jean Francaix
Amherst Saxophone Quartet manages to soften the impact

Composer Biography

1938 —

ELLIOT DelBORGO was born in Port Chester, New York in 1938. A student of Vincent Persichetti, he received awards from the University Awards Committee, Festival of the Arts, Potsdam, and many commissions. Mr. DeIBorgo taught in Philadelphia from 1960 to 1966, and has been a faculty member of the State University College at Potsdam since 1966. He has written works for orchestra, band, chorus, as well as chamber music. The Quartet for Saxophones was written for the Texas Saxophone Quartet.