Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin

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Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin
Year of Composition: 1989     Composed for the ASQ

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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 (Buffalo, NY)
Saturday, March 25, 2000
Sax life of Riley is boring
Herman Trotter

The final concert on the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's 1999-2000 series, in UB's Slee Hall, explores works composed specifically for the ensemble.

Two works received world premieres. concluding with Stephen Parisi's "I Sugo." Scored as a quintet for saxes and marimba, played by Raymond Bennett, the gently clattering marimb provided a textural expansion of ensemble sonority which, it must be said, was quite welcome after the rather tiresome expanse of the other new work, Terry Riley's "Mandala Miniatures."

Riley's 16 movements may have consumed only 28 minutes, but their passing in such rapid succession left the feeling that he had manv good ideas, but didn't take the time to develop them. There wasn't one of the movements that was in any way unpleasant, but the continuum just got boring.

By contrast, Parisi's "I Sugo" offered unusual sonic blends in the first movement, where Harry Fackelman's baritone sax and Bennett's marimba engaged in an extended, minimalist dialogue over a repeated theme of halting character. This gave way to the quite lovely effect of a richly scored chorale melody for the four reeds that the marimba embroidered with discreet trills.

The jazzy pulse of the Scherzo finale, with some punctuating jabs by the marimba and a renegade sax concluded the piece on a happily upbeat note.

Over the years, one of the most satisfying of the ASQ's commissions has been Andrew Stiller's 1983 Chamber Symphony, reprised to open this concert. Its gritty integrity is established in the first movement's hard-charging, high-stepping theme, which is contrasted by quarter tone excursions whose dissonance threatens dissolution of the u,u ement, but is swept aside by the dogged main theme.

The slow movement's rich harmonization of a simple folk theme and its occasional modal flavors offer an interlude of exceptional beauty, followed by a mocking Menuetto of pulsing tread, which gives off Kurt Weill flavors, and a final Presto that flies. along repetitively, with some convulsive gurgling sounds like musical indigestion, and a concluding eruption with oblique vocal references to the Mount St. Helens cataclysm.

Here and in Chan Ka Nin's 1989 Saxophone Quartet, the ASQ performances were dazzling in both their technical and interpretive aspects. The form of Nin's work, which won the ASQ's '91 Competition, is intriguing in its inexorable progression from thorny, jagged lines and wide interval leaps to progressively calmer and more sonorous terrain. Throughout, the listener's ear is kept alert by unusual effects such as overarching wails and warbling textures.

I Sugo (2000), Stephen Parisi
Mandala Miniatures (2000), Terry Riley
Chamber Symphony for Saxophone Quartet, Andrew Stiller
Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin
Sax life of Riley is boring
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Saturday, February 8, 1997
Amherst Saxophone Quartet strings together a pleasant mix
Thomas Putnam

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet was in disguise for part of this program, which mixed saxophone quartet pieces and string quartet pieces with mixed results.

The saxophonists had on their slippers, but not their powdered wigs, for their performance of a Mozart String Quartet (K. 590). Candlelight would have been appropriate and made more chilling the moans of disapproving ghosts of the Budapest String Quartet.

This began the program as the grand statement of classical acceptance. We do belong. Years have passed without their daring to cross the border, but now the sax players have their Classic Visa, and you can be sure it's a card.

Actually the players in the last movement made a case for the misplacement of Mozart in the 18th Century. The allegro had a fine open-throated verve and a natural richness of color that was very satisfying, neither timid nor apologetic. The ghosts were quiet.

What followed was Chan Ka Nin's Saxophone Quartet (1989), an ASQ prize winner and a richly various piece. Its fleet, contesting energies suggested scenes of theater or dance, with blue lighting. What was odd (this comes from not knowing when a disguise is on and when it is off) was the feeling that Chan's music would sound wonderful played by instruments other than saxophones.

What a score for a ballet this would be - a kind of Asian Spring, for the suggestion of the freshness and openness of Copland is not too distant. A string orchestra, for example, with some use of the technique of col legno, hitting the strings with the wood of the bows; and percussion, and contrabassoon definitely.

Another saxophone quartet was Jonathan Golove's "Closely Related Fungi" (1996), which the composer introduced and applauded. Nevermind the title unless you are obsessed with programmatic aids. It had only the damaging effect of allowing one of the players to put down the sax and take up the lectern to deliver a series of exclamations on the subject of mushrooms.

Much more persuasive was the, well, persuasion of Golove's music, the French softness and patience that made the piece such a lovely throwback. Here we are at one turn of the century and still in arm's reach of the last turn of the century. Time seems very long at the end of a century, perhaps.

Golove said that while writing the piece, he was fathoming Charlie Parker, the bop saxophonist, but we don't really hear that kind of saxophone here, for this is not a convoluted and chromatic music. Ellington saxes, perhaps, more sweet than acid. Also, Golove's rhythms are not really fascinating, that is, the piece gets along very well without sharply cut figures. And it was quite nice to hear this kind of tonal persuasion.

We truly were treated to tonal persuasion and rhythmic flash in the ASQ's performance of Jean Rivier's "Grave et Presto." Apparently this piece has been in the quartet's repertory from the start, and no wonder. Here is languorous tone and quickly painted urban bustle. (The ghosts of the Budapest are stirring, they are envious.) The performance was nearly perfectly delicate (this was no Classicism in Slippers), and at the end a marvel of here-we-go-don't-look-back ensemble flash.

To show that a generalization is a dangerous thing, there was a string quartet transcription that worked famously. Sometimes to borrow is better. William Grant Still's "Danzas de Panama" may sound sultry played by strings; it certainly sounds great played by saxes. These are colorful dances, with fascinating rhythms, and if you can't dance, that's OK. ASQ has the splashy choreography, and they're wearing shoes that fit.

Quartet in F Major, K. 590, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin
Closely Related Fungi (1996), Jonathan Golove
Grave et Presto, Jean Rivier
Danzas de Panama (1953), William Grant Still
Amherst Saxophone Quartet strings together a pleasant mix
Reading Eagle/Reading Times (Reading, PA)
Monday, February 22, 1993
Offbeat Amherst musicians provide a musical adventure
Susan L. Pena

In a concert that showed just how well-deserved their Chamber Music America award for adventuresome programming was, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet inaugurated the Gertrude Sternbergh Concert Series of the Star series Association Saturday night at the Albright College Meridian Theatre.

Besides hearing the rare sounds of four saxophones playing both chamber music and jazz, the audience had a dollop of comedy thrown in unexpectedly by tenor player Stephen Rosenthal.

Blasting the stereotypical image of serious chamber musician, Rosenthal opened the program by deadpanning his way through a series of rules for the audience that included "no breathing allowed." His introductions to the pieces, often worthy of P.D.Q. Bach, had the audience in stitches; seconds later listeners would be raptly absorbing (or "audiating") the quartet's wonderful, unique sound.

Unsurprisingly, that sound is somewhere between a woodwind quintet and a brass ensemble; saxophones combine the burnished sound of brass with the flexibility and slight nasality of oboes and clarinets.

In the hands of these remarkable players - Salvatore Andolina on soprano, Russell Carere on alto and Harry Fackelman on baritone in addition to Rosenthal - the instrument becomes a natural conduit for virtually every style of music.

One can't help but wonder how Bach, who never heard a sax, would have liked their rendition of his Toccata BWV 913. Certainly he couldn't have asked for a more sprightly fugue, or a more precise, controlled, and often frisky rendering of the fast passages.

Hearing Verdi's Quartet in E Minor on wind instruments took some getting used to - it really sounded like a whole different piece; still, the group certainly captured the dramatic spirit of the work.

The second movement, a gracious, bittersweet waltz that Violetta might have sung, worked especially well in this reading, as did the elfin Prestissimo. They negotiated the final, quasi-fugal movement with élan, in spite of its being tricky to play, especially when you blow it rather than bow it.

They opened the second half of the program with the winner of their own composition competition, Chan Ka Nin's brilliant, quirky Saxophone Quartet, subtitled "Among Friends." Busy and replete with effects at the beginning, the piece mellows into a lyrical set of solos for each instrument, like walking from a marketplace to a quiet park. It showed what can emerge when a composer writes expressly for this ensemble, using all of the instruments' capabilities.

The rest of the program was given over to all kinds of jazz, from Thelonious Monk's Blue Monk," which included a wonderful duet for soprano and baritone and great soprano solos, to ragtime with a bow to Eubie Blake. All of it proved they could groove as well as the next sax player.

A delightful departure was Carere's "Jill[y] Bean Walk," a Chaplinesque cakewalk of the golliwogish persuasion dedicated to his three-year old daughter and her peculiar gait. All four obviously enjoyed playing this number.

Also included were a splendid arrangement of "When the Saints Go Marching In," a familiar syncopated morsel whose name no one could remember (and they wouldn't tell), and, as an encore, Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther."

Quartet in e minor, Giuseppe Verdi
Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin
Blue Monk, Thelonius Monk
Jilly Bean Walk, Russ Carere
The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Monday, May 11, 1992
Toronto composer wins sax competition
Herman Trotter

May I have the envelope please? And the winner of the International Composition Competition is...Toronto-based composer Chan Ka Nin for his Saxophone Quartet subtitled Among Friends. The blue ribbon is worth $4,000 plus several repeat performances. The winning quartet opens with spiky textures formed from stark polyphonic lines and staccato attacks, and progresses over its 14-minute duration to a much more serene closing ground. At the end we hear slow, sweet pulsing sound patterns, a suggestion of pentatonic scales and some truly delicious close harmonies. But its not a continuous, gradual journey from acrid to sweet, and other strong impressions left in the wake of Sundays performance are of fast running lines and a generally high energy level. The work also presents some abrupt contrasts. Along the music's clearly marked roadway we heard a consonant unison passage interrupted by contentious counterpoint, a lyrical soprano sax solo over pulsing figures, a dreamy section emerging from slow tenor and alto solos, a few bent pitches injected for spice, and a return to energetic, cacophonous interchanges just prior to the rather calming denouement. The subtitle Among Friends refers to the process of give and take required of chamber musicians in learning how to play together. Its something quite well mastered by the ASQ members, because the balance and ensemble in performing Nin's difficult quartet were virtually flawless. (Click for additional Chan Ka Nin review.) A remarkable but wholly unexpected similarity linked the opening two works on the program. J.C. Bach's Sinfonietta in C, as transcribed by ASQ baritone Harry Fackelman, was an example of jaunty post-baroque music in a nicely balanced and somewhat understated context, with sweetly keening themes and a highly amiable, unruffled demeanor all the way. Leila Lustig's 1983 The Language of Bees is clearly indebted to jazz but also speaks with the same soft tongue and genial manner that seemed to guide Fackelmans transcription of the J. C. Bach work. The four movements attempt musical depictions of various bodily gyrations with which honey bees communicate. Gentle and more animated trilling sounds on both narrow and wide intervals abound in teh first and third movements, interrupted once by a rude noise indicating the intrusion of a skunk in the apiary. The second movement, Slow Drag for Drones, was trill-less but rooted in soft, appealing jazz allusions, while the finale presented a slow alto solo over blues harmonization, with spiraling figures leading to the familiar trills again in the coda. Although this is appealing music on a rather original concept, there is a certain similarity of texture throughout whichlimits its distinctiveness of musical profile. To open the concert, the ASQ members had sashayed into the hall from the rear playing an unannounced ricky-ticky rag. And after a closing group of jazz/rag numbers, they exited in like manner, with the Pink Panther Theme accompanied by audience finger-snapping. Highlights of that final group for this long-time listener were a dawn and dirty blue version of Thelonious Monks Blue Monk, Eudie Blakes Charleston Rag, with superb ensemble and Fackelmans baritone scampering up and down the scale, and ASQ alto Russ Careres Jilly Bean Walk, with its rapibly sauntering gait, delightful syncopation, and unexpected silences.

Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin
Sinfonietta in C, J.C. Bach
Language of Bees, Leila Lustig
Toronto composer wins sax competition
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

1949 —

Chan Ka Nin 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. Chan has won composition prizes in a number of international competitions, including the ASQ's 1989 award.

Composition Notes

Chan's Saxophone Quartet consists of one movement that grows from chaos to a deep sense of tranquility. The work is said to comment on the act of bringing a chamber music work to performance level, with all the requisite discussion, give and take, and ultimate agreement that this intimate music requires. Saxophone Quartet "explores the various sonic possibilities for the four sizes of saxophones. Each instrument is featured prominently at one point, and sometimes they may be paired or played against each other. The beginning four notes generate the musical materials for this one movement work. This piece celebrates Friendship, an important ingredient in quartet playing; and in our lives." -Chan Ka Nin


Buffalo News, The
Amherst Sax Quartet to receive top national prize

The Buffalo-based Amherst Saxophone Quartet will gain another national honor on Friday when it is awarded first prize in the 1992 Annual CMA/ASCAP Competition in New York City during the National Conference of Chamber Music America.

The announcement was made this morning during a press conference at the Boocock Library of the Nichols School, where the Amherst Saxophone Quartet recently became artists-in-residence.

The award, jointly sponsored by Chamber Music America (CMA) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), was granted in recognition of the ensemble's "adventuresome programming" in both contemporary and standard chamber music repertoire.

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet, now in its 15th year, has gone beyond adventuresome programming of existing repertoire, however, and last year conducted its own competition for new works for four saxophones, awarding the $4,000 first prize to Toronto composer Chan Ka Nin for his Saxophone Quartet subtitled "Among Friends."

The CMA/ASCAP award — which includes a cash grant of $350 — further strengthens the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's position as premier chamber ensemble of its type. This could greatly expand the group's already extensive touring schedule which has taken it throughout North America and to Japan, where the group recently toured and then was artistic representative of the City of Buffalo at a festival in Kanazawa, which is Buffalo's sister city in Japan.

Nationally, the ASQ has appeared on the former Johnny Carson "Tonight" Show, on the nationally syndicated "St. Paul Sunday Morning" radio program, and has performed both in New York's Carnegie Hall and Washington Kennedy Center.

Amherst Sax Quartet to receive top national prize
Buffalo News, The
And the winner is...

After a season of suspense, during which the Amherst Saxophone Quartet progressively performed the winning works in its International Composition Competition, we now arrive at the grand prize winner

. Sunday's 7 p.m. concert in Rockwell Hall will feature the Saxophone Quartet by Chan Ka Nin, subtitled "Among Friends," which was singled out from more than 130 entries for the top award. This work, along with the third-prize winner, Anita Perry's "Quartet for Four Saxophones in Classical Style," has been recorded by ASQ and will be released on an MCA Compact Disc later this year. Sunday's program also spotlights a repeat performance of "The Language of Bees" by Leila Lustig, former staff member at Buffalo's WNED-FM. Lustig's work describes the "dances" thorough which honeybees communicate, the music mirroring the stylized motions of bees. Completing the program will be J.e. Bach's Sinfonietta in C, as transcribed by the ensemble's baritone saxophonist. Harry Fackelman, and some ragtime pieces by Scott Joplin and Eubie Blake.
—Herman Trotter

Amherst Sax Quartet: And the winner is...Chan Ka Nin