Some Recommendations for Quartet Repertoire

Each ensemble needs to find a repertoire that it enjoys playing. There is a lot of music now for saxophone quartet. A group can focus on a certain style, or choose to perform a wide variety of styles. I would not recommend focusing too much on what we call standard repertoire, unfortunately, because so much of it is, again, in my view, of very poor quality. Some pieces I would recommend for college quartet: -Quartett by Alexander Glazunov (please dig into this work!; the music is hidden in all that wonderful counterpoint; downplay the overmarked dynamics; use your ears!) -Bach chorales and preludes and fugues are essential for developing fine quartet playing. -Francis Poulenc's Suite Française was beautifully transcribed for saxophone quartet by Swedish composer Jonas Forssell. -Caryl Florio's Allegro de Concert (not too difficult, late 19th century original piece) -Histoire du Tango by Astor Piazzolla/Voirpy -any of the "standard repertoire" pieces are OK for working on ensemble playing (Desenclos, Pierné's music, Lacour, etc.) -there are many arrangements of jazz tunes and other familiar tunes, which are great for gigs. There is absolutely no substitute for practicing a lot and performing a lot. Get out there and perform! If all you can get is free concerts, do them! Perform, perform, perform, perform. There is no other way to really hone your skills. Whenever possible, record your playing and listen. My playing has improved dramatically from listening to concert and studio recordings of myself. If you dare, let someone you trust listen and get them to be honest with you, too. There has been an explosion in the number and quality of original saxophone quartets in the past 15 years. Just a small sample: -July by Michael Torke (a very enjoyable, perhaps you could say post-minimalist, work) -Chanting the Light of Foresight by Terry Riley (a great 40-minute work for saxophone quartet; some movements could probably be performed alone) -Duke Meets Mort by Robert Carl (a tuning nightmare, but a very beautiful meeting in heaven of Duke Ellington and Morton Feldman) -Four5 by John Cage (for any multiple of SATB quartet) -Quartet by Lukas Foss (a very fine work, already considered by many to be standard repertoire) -Tell No More of Enchanted Days by Mark Engebretson (a 20-minute work using extended techniques; has been performed by several quartets; a passionate, beautiful work) -Mosaics by C.P. First (excellent, difficult work that deserves to become standard repertoire) -Night Light by M. William Karlins (a very fine and beautiful work by a well-known composer; third movement written in a style reminiscent of Stan Kenton big band saxophone section) -2nd Saxophone Quartet by Wolfram Wagner (5 short bagatelles that should become a standard for saxophone quartet) -XAS by Iannis Xenakis (a masterpiece requiring excellent altissimo technique) -Saxophone Quartet by Charles Wuorinen (an excellent, difficult work that deserves to become standard repertoire) -Rasch by Franco Donatoni (another excellent work that should become standard repertoire) -Drastic Measures by Russell Peck (a fun, accessible piece) -Alaric I or II by Gavin Bryars (for SSAB quartet) -Saxophone Quartet by Ada Gentile (a fine, elegant work) -Stand Apart by David Macbride (requires 32 music stands; fun, jazz-influenced work; very effective visually, too) -Musique de saxophone by Germán Toro (one of the most imaginative works for saxophone quartet I have ever played, by Columbian/Austrian composer) The list goes on and on. If you play in a quartet, just start digging in. Look for these pieces. Look for other pieces. Find local composers interested in writing for you. Create some new music of your own. —Susan Fancher