Save Time - Make Use of the Score

published in the Saxophone Journal Volume 25, Number 5 May/June 2001 (ASQ website posting permission granted by the Saxophone Journal) Most Saxophone Journal readers who play in saxophone quartets are probably already convinced that the score is a useful tool, but I suspect most of us do not use it as much as we should. Studying the score saves a huge amount of rehearsal time and results in a more informed, intelligent interpretation of the music. This, of course, does not apply only to saxophone quartets, but to solo with piano or orchestra, as well as saxophone with any other combination of instruments. Take the time to write important cues into your parts. Notice in particular what the other parts have to do at tempo changes and transitions. Make note of which voice has the melody or the lead. This is often not obvious, and may take some discussion during rehearsal, but more often than not it is easy to see from the score. Phrasing decisions are also often more obvious when you are looking at all four parts. Notice when you should copy each other's phrasing and articulation, and when it might make sense to use a contrasting interpretation. Do not hesitate to write in cues about these things. Note which instrument you need to listen for in a complex spot, or which instrument has the lead part at a transition. When you return to the piece three years later, that work will significantly reduce the time needed to relearn the piece. The more complex the music, the more cues I write in my part to remind me of who I need to lock in with, and who leads at transitions. While you're looking at the score, search for discrepancies between the parts and the score. Again, an enormous amount of rehearsal time can be saved by noticing wrong notes, rhythmic errors, articulation errors, missing tempo markings and dynamics, and misplaced rehearsals numbers. Human beings make the score and parts, so there are bound to be at least occasional errors. One of the most important ways you can make use of the score of a piece of music is to analyze the musical form. Since the score has the entire piece, not just your part, it is much easier to see the form from the score. You can also see the motivic structure of the piece, which may affect your interpretation, phrasing, articulation, and balance. Study of the score for a saxophone quartet gives you important information about how the four voices interact. If you can get all four members of your quartet to spend some time reading through the score, it will save you an enormous amount of rehearsal time! We took a glance at the overall form of the saxophone quartet by Alexander Glazunov in the last issue. In that issue, I argued for playing longer phrases and taking care not to overdo the dynamic markings. To give a convincing performance of this movement, a quartet must also have a sense of the musical form. An understanding of the form of the movement makes a lot of sense out of this piece, which otherwise may seem to wander aimlessly. The first movement of Alexander Glazunov's saxophone quartet is a sophisticated twentieth century twist on the classical sonata rondo form. In a textbook sonata form, the first theme is stated in the tonic, followed by the second theme in a closely related key. This exposition is then usually repeated. This is followed by the development section, which uses musical material from the exposition. The recapitulation then returns us to the themes of the exposition, usually both in the tonic key. An introduction and coda are also common features of a sonata form. A classical rondo form has a recognizable rondo theme, usually called A, which returns throughout the movement. A common rondo form is, for example, ABACABA. A sonata rondo form, as the term suggests, combines features of sonata and rondo forms. For a good discussion of musical forms, see Robert E. Tyndall's excellent book entitled Musical Form. The following analysis will be most meaningful with a copy of the score at hand. The movement begins with a 16-measure introduction that leads us to the tonic key of Bb major and the important rondo theme at rehearsal number 1. The chromatic lines featured in the introduction will reappear throughout the movement as both introductions and closings to themes and sections. At rehearsal 2 there is material that recalls the introduction, followed at rehearsal 3 by a transition to the next theme, let's call it B, which begins at rehearsal 5. The B theme is in the key of g minor, the relative minor of Bb major. At rehearsal 7, the B theme is followed by music marked poco tranquillo, which servers as a closing theme to the first episode. This is followed by music based on the chromatic lines of the introduction that serves to end both the first episode and the exposition. As is usually the case in a sonata rondo form, Glazunov does not repeat the exposition. The development of the movement begins at rehearsal 10, with the return of the beginning of the rondo A theme, now in d minor, rather than the tonic of Bb major. The development travels through many key areas with the key signatures of D, then Bb, then G, then Eb, then F, at which point the rondo A theme returns at rehearsal 16 in the key of d minor. This is followed by more development, using fragments of the B theme. At rehearsal 19, the development sequences through pieces of the introduction and the rondo theme, bringing the music back to the key of Bb major, and at rehearsal 22 we have the important return of the A theme in the tonic key of Bb major. In the sonata rondo form, this return of A in the tonic key marks the beginning of the recapitulation of the sonata form, and in the rondo form, it is the expected return of the A theme. As expected, the B theme returns at rehearsal 25, again preceded by music based on the introduction, but now in the key of Cb minor. Just as in the exposition, a passage based on the chromatic lines from the introduction returns us to the key signature of Bb and the closing poco tranquillo of the B theme in g minor, exactly as we heard it the first time. There is a strong sense of arrival at rehearsal 30, which sets up the expected return of the A theme, though somewhat varied, at rehearsal 31. You could argue that the return of A is already heard in the arpeggiated soprano and alto lines at rehearsal 30. Rehearsal 33 to the end is a coda ending the movement with a flourish of activity securely in the tonic key of Bb major. Thus, you can explain the movement as a sonata rondo with the form described as ABACADABA, in which AB is the exposition of a sonata form, ACAD is the development section, and AB is the recapitulation, followed by a varied return of the A theme and then a coda. The return of the A theme throughout the movement certainly gives it the feel of a rondo, yet the complexity of the development also gives us the sense of a sonata form. Understanding it as a sophisticated twentieth century example of sonata rondo form replaces the aimless feeling I often get from this movement with a secure sense that it has a definite shape and structure. This movement is complex, and it is easy to get lost in the form. If the performer is lost in the form, it is likely the listener is lost, too. It is the performers' responsibility to understand the form of the music and to communicate it to the listener. In the case of complicated music like the Glazunov, not to mention more contemporary music, this requires some study of the score. The good news is that it can be fun, and there is a definite payoff in the depth and understanding it lends to your performance. In my last article, the second movement was explained as a theme and variations. The longer variations bear further analysis, and there's still the third movement to tackle, so have fun! —Susan Fancher