Program Book 1986 page 06
Program Notes for September 7

The activities of Marcel Mule (born in Aube in 1901, named professor at the Paris Conservatory in 1942) in the triple role of pedagogue, soloist and quartet player which have steadily raised the instrument to the highest spheres of musical life, this accession implying the recovery of a lost dignity until recently hotly contested or at least frequently put in doubt. The high point in Marcel Mule's career as a concert saxophonist came in 1958 with a triumphant tour of the United States with the Boston Symphony under the direction of Charles Munch. It was thus that the saxophone quartet which he founded in 1929 (The Quartet of the Garde Republicaine), which became in 1936 the famous Paris Saxophone Quartet known throughout Europe. Soon thereafter, under the name of "The Marcel Mule Saxophone Quartet," its fame extended to North Africa, America, and to the most famous festivals of our time, Zurich, Vienna, Berlin, and Bordeaux among others. The original literature for saxophone quartet — more extensive than is generally believed — is largely modern and includes works of widely varying idioms (as this recording testifies) which exploit to the utmost the vast expressive, technical and dynamic resources of the ensemble. The quartet is composed of a soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone, each assuming the respective role corresponding to those of the first and second violin, viola and cello of the string quartet.

DOMENICO SCARLATTI was born in Naples, Italy, on October 26, 1685 and died in Madrid, Spain on July 23, 1757. He was a composer, keyboard teacher, and performer. A pupil of his father, he was named organist and composer at the royal chapel in Naples when he was 16. In 1709 he engaged in a friendly contest with Handel, who was adjudged his superior on the organ, while Scarlatti held his own on the harpsichord. Scarlatti's special claim to renown rests upon his harpsichord music, having studied the characteristics of the instrument, he adapted his compositions to them. He composed over 600 sonatas and pieces for harpsichord, besides operas, cantatas, and sacred music. The "Trois Pieces" were written for harpsichord, and were arranged for the Saxophone Quartet by the French composer Gabriel Pierne (see below). Pierne believed that this was the ideal modern interpretation of these pieces, rather than using the piano whose characteristics are so unlike the harpsichord. While this may be open to doubt, it is an interesting experiment and seems to have been achieved with some success. The inspiration behind these pieces, as in most composers of the classical period, is thematic and harmonic rather than instrumental — an exchange of solo instrument seems to do no great harm — and, providing the works are played lightly and precisely in the spirit intended, the music can be given a satisfactory performance. Scarlatti's works for the harpsichord were an important point of advancement in the history of music, a link between the sonatas of Phillip Emmanuel Bach and Haydn and the earlier works of J. S. Bach and Handel, his contemporaries. He would, no doubt, be greatly intrigued to have heard his music played on instruments so strangely modern as the saxophone, a tonal quality completely unknown to him.

ALEXANDER GLAZUNOV, (1865-1936) studied at a technical high school in St. Petersburg and also took lessons in music with a private tutor. At the age of 15, he began to study composition with Rimsky-Korsakov. Glazunov made rapid progress and, in Rimsky-Korsakov's words, "progressed not from day to day but from hour to hour". At 16, Glazunov completed his first Symphony which premiered in 1882, the same year his first String Quartet was performed. Glazunov composed in all genres except opera, with the major portion of his music written before 1906. He wrote eight symphonies and eight quartets. The first seven quartets were for strings, the last was composed in 1931 for saxophones. Some of the material from this work was later used in Clazunov's Saxophone Concerto, one of the most popular and challenging works for solo alto saxophone.

Amherst Saxophone Quartet Program Book Program Notes