for saxophone quartet
Instrumentation soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxophones
First Performance 29 July 2017, 21th edition of Nova Music and Architecture Festival, Torún, Poland; The Nordic Saxophone Quartet
Commissioned by Johannes Thorell and the Nordic Saxophone Quartet with generous support from Swedish Arts Council and Längmanska Kulturfonden
27.10.17 Musikaliska, Stockholm, Sweden; Nordic Saxophone Quartet *Swedish Premiere*
27.1.18 Musikaliska, Stockholm; Nordic Saxophone Quartet
Departing by train from any station in Berlin can lead one to think on the many historic journeys that began there. In the current geopolitical climate, with migration at its highest level since the Second World War, this musing is all the more poignant. Watching and listening to the trains depart from Ostbanhof station in the former East Germany, became, in a strange and unexpected way, the starting point for the piece. On these occasions I heard a series of sounds unexpectedly reminiscent of an ascending scale on the saxophone- a distinct, varying collection of ascending ‘notes’, altering at each occurrence in rhythm, tempo, interval, pitch, and number of pitches present. The different musical journeys that evolved from this unique experience, explore a range of accompanying emotions- excitement, fear, anxiety, sorrow and, paradoxically, stillness and calm.
Clearly singing through in this quartet is a personal affection for the pure tone of the saxophone. The work consists of multiple, contrasting, mainly short movements culminating in a more substantial and expressive finale. The opening, serene in character, begins by ‘quoting’ a train departure and builds gently into the second movement. Lively and playful, the baritone takes the lead on a riff-like, honking-melody; sections interspersed with softer interludes. Sorrowful, sweetly singing long lines float between the trio (baritone is ‘tacit’ in this movement), forming an enduring, slow melody. The agile fourth also shares melodic material between the parts but this time in a minute way- the lines are short and often staccato, passing fine strands of melody around, at times going off on a tangent, superimposed against the melodic thread. A mischievous, biting fifth movement gives way rapidly to the impending angst-filled finale. Here, as in the opening, a departing train is quoted as an ascending scale, from which the entire movement gradually unfolds.