Rasch (1990), Franco Donatoni

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Rasch (1990), Franco Donatoni
Year of Composition: 1990    
Con moto


Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Friday, January 28, 2000
European influence
Jan Jezioro

The members of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, who are the saxophone quartet in residence at the L'niversity at Buffalo, offered the third program in their four-part series at Slee Hall Thursday evening. The program, played in their usual high style, featured a generous smorgasbord of works written by currently active European composers.

The Second Quartet, in five short movements, by Austrian Wolfram Wagner, proved to be a polished miniature. The central slow movement, featuring a wandering soprano theme, at first questioning, then lyrical, was bracketed by pairs of more animated movements. An effectLve unison "laugh" opened the fourth Vivace movement, while the concluding Allegro, written mostly in triplets, had a strongly "American" feel.

"Rasch," a one-movement work by Italian Franco Donatoni, conveyed a surprisingly appealing sense of nervousness. A muted start gave way to short, jerky phrases that turned madly lyrical. The more intense, questioning return of the punctuated theme became increasingly manic, ending with a piano skittering away by the soprano.

"Quatuor," by Frenchman Guy Lacour, is a 12-tone work that is surprisingly accessible. The mournful tenor opening of the "Elegie," answered by the soprano, initiated a song-like section that had a sleep-walking quality; all four instruments played solo in the descending coda. The scherzo was an animated barroom conversation, briefly sagging during the contrasting trio section, while the agitated finale overcame a melancholic interlude to reach a frenzied conclusion.

"Dalasvit," a three-movement work on folk themes by Swedish composer Nils Lindberg, began with a waltz, a plaintive alto phrase yielding to a lush ensemble section of dreamy figures over held notes. An extended, pure toned tenor solo opened the middle piece, with the tempo changing to jaunty confidence, before the wistful return of the first theme. "Skullbraddlek," a traditional wedding dance, featured an infectious bagpipe drone.  

Susan Fancher traded her soprano sax for an alto in the two jazz pieces by Mike Mower. "Full English Breakfast" featured some very up-tempo playing, with each of the instruments commenting on the meal, including some down and dirty honking and an extended riff by alto Russ Carere. "Academicians" started with a languid, dreamy resignation, before a smoldering alto theme emerged over stately, low sax; a cool tenor riff by Stephen Rosenthal lead to the return of the dreamy opening.

"Spain," by American Chick Corea qualified for this otherwise all-European program on two counts: its sinuous, cool jazz evocation of Spain, and that it is one sweet tune that let the ASQ members really show their chops.

Second Saxophone Quartet (1997), Wolfram Wagner
Rasch (1990), Franco Donatoni
Quatuor (1969), Guy Lacour
Dalasvit (Dalecarlium Suite), Nils Lindberg
Academicians, Mike Mower
Full English Breakfast, Mike Mower
Spain, Chick Corea
European influence

Composer Biography

1927 —

Donatoni, Franco was born in 1927 in Verona, Italy. Along with Berio and Nono, he is one of the leading Italian composers of his generation. He was influenced early on by Bartók, but has destroyed most of his works from this period. Like others of his peers, he was influenced by the Second Viennese School in the 1950's, but has since evolved in a strikingly personal direction.

Composition Notes

Donatoni is a composer of colorfully dramatic works, which depend upon a highly refined sense of color and texture to give them shape and direction. Donatoni's music tends to be very clear in its rhythmic organization. It is motivic, repetitive and tonally oriented. In spite of considerable complexity, his music has a beautiful sound, and can be quickly grasped by the listener. Donatoni will often harmonize instrumental lines in rhythmic unity, but with the harmony in 2nds, 7ths or 9ths and so on, producing more of a timbre than true harmony. Rasch is a classically concise example of his technique.