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ClassicsOnline Home » Chamber Music (Saxophone Quartets) - TANENBAUM, E. / SAMPSON, D. / MORRILL, D. / SAUTER, E. (Breathing Lessons) (New Hudson Saxophone Quartet)
The saxophone quartet is a versatile and exciting medium and the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet is one of the world leaders in the field. The music ranges widely and embraces the jazz-derived rhythmic drive of Elias Tanenbaum’s Sax Quartet as well as the multi-movement and coloristic expression of David Sampson’s Breathing Lessons. Dexter Morrill pays homage to two great jazz saxophonists as well as to classical models, whilst Eddie Sauter’s almost unknown work for tuba and saxophone quartet is full of imaginative invention. Eric Ewazen provides a brilliant and energetic conclusion. Whether written for or premièred by the group, these are all first recordings.
Music for Saxophone Quartet
Breathing Lessons is the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet’s third full-length recording of American music for saxophone quartet. This collection of world première recordings, spanning an extraordinary range of style, temperament, and brilliant musical creativity includes new works by Eric Ewazen and David Sampson, pieces written for and dedicated to the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet by Dexter Morrill and Elias Tanenbaum, and Eddie Sauter’s rarely heard Piece for Tuba and Saxophone Quartet composed in 1961.
Since its inception in 1987 the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet has been dedicated to performing and expanding the American repertoire for saxophone quartet. In that time the NHSQ has commissioned or premièred over thirty new works for saxophone quartet including works by Robert Sirota, David Noon, Steve Cohen, Robert Kyr, Nils Vigeland, Calvin Hampton and Nicolas Flagello. All of the works on this disc have become staples of the NHSQ repertoire, and these recordings are the fruit of a decade of performing these works together.
Elias Tanenbaum was born in Brooklyn, New York. In his early years he studied the trumpet and played in jazz bands in New York City. After serving in the US Army in World War II he received his B.S. from The Juilliard School and his MA from Columbia University. His composition teachers included Dante Fiorillo, Bohuslav Martinů, Otto Luening, and Wallingford Riegger. Tanenbaum composed over one hundred works in all idioms, including music for concert, jazz, theater, television, ballet, electronic, and computer music. His music has been performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan by orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Japan Philharmonic, Warsaw Philharmonic, Brooklyn Philharmonia, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Westchester Philharmonic and many other performing groups. Tanenbaum was a member of the composition faculty at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City from 1970 till his death in 2008.
Elias Tanenbaum composed his Sax Quartet for the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet in 1999. It was the first of two saxophone quartets that he composed and dedicated to the NHSQ. The piece came about as a result of Tanenbaum’s long relationship with NHSQ soprano saxophonist Paul Cohen; colleagues at the Manhattan School of Music for many years. Sax Quartet is composed in an arch form, ABCBA. It is characterized by its driving rhythms based on the composer’s experiences as a jazz musician in his early years. The NHSQ had the pleasure of working closely with the composer in rehearsals for performances and in preparation for this recording. We were deeply saddened that Elias passed away before this CD could be released. This world première recording of Tanenbaum’s Sax Quartet is dedicated to his memory.
David Sampson was born in 1951 in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has emerged as one of the truly unique voices of his generation, achieving rapidly growing attention from major orchestras, soloists and ensembles. He was Composer-in-Residence with the Colonial Symphony Orchestra (1998–2007). Among Sampson’s major works are Hommage JFK commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra; Monument commissioned by the Barlow Foundation for the Akron and Memphis Symphony Orchestras; Turns for Cello and Orchestra commissioned by the Bergen Foundation and cellist Paul Tobias and premièred with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; Triptych for trumpet and orchestra commissioned by the International Trumpet Guild and premièred by Raymond Mase at the Aspen Music Festival and with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall; Dectet commissioned by the Chicago Chamber Musicians; Strata commissioned by the NEA and the American Brass Quintet; and three orchestral works commissioned by the Colonial Symphony Orchestra. A number of his compositions have been recorded. He received a 2006 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and major grants from the NEA, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Barlow Endowment, Jerome Foundation, Cary Trust, and the Dodge Foundation, among others. He holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music, Hunter College, Manhattan School of Music, and the Ecoles d’Art Americaines, where his teachers included Karel Husa, Henri Dutilleux and John Corigliano in composition, and Gerard Schwarz, Gilbert Johnson, Robert Nagel, and Raymond Mase in trumpet. His music is published by Editions BIM, Cantate Press, Hickman Publications, and David Sampson Music. He has served on the Board of the Composers Guild of New Jersey and the Advisory Board of the Bergen Foundation.
David Sampson composed Breathing Lessons in the spring of 2002. The work was written for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet with funds provided by Chamber Music America’s Commissioning Program, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Helen F. Whitaker Fund, and the Chamber Music America Commissioning Endowment Fund. In 2004 Sampson approached the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet about performing his large-scale seven-movement saxophone quartet that had only received a few performances. The NHSQ immediately became enamored of the work and has performed it numerous times. The NHSQ has had the opportunity to work closely with the composer in preparation of those performances and this recording.
Of this work the composer writes, “The inspiration for Breathing Lessons came from a book of the same name by Anne Tyler. Written in 1988 and published by Alfred A. Knopf, it had been a favorite of mine for many years. When asked to write a work for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, the idea of creating musical scenes and interludes based on a book I so admired seemed perfectly natural. Breathing Lessons begins with a scene followed by an interlude and then alternates the two. The scenes are extroverted depictions of events in the book while the interludes are introverted ruminations of poignant quotes. This seemed to me to depict the power of the book with its effervescent energy on the surface and a sad darkness underneath. The musical result is a seven movement journey through varied saxophone colors and techniques written to showcase the extraordinary technical and more importantly expressive elements of the saxophone quartet.”
Dexter Morrill was born in North Adams, Massachusetts. At the age of eight he began trumpet lessons with Peter Fogg and later studied with Irwin Shainman at Williams College. He entered Colgate University in 1956 and studied composition with William Skelton, and attended the first Lenox School of Jazz in 1957, having trumpet lessons with Dizzy Gillespie and arranging with William Russo. In 1960 Morrill began graduate studies at Stanford University and studied composition with Leonard Ratner and orchestration with Leland Smith. During 1962–4 he was a Ford Foundation Young Composer Fellow in University City, Missouri, and later taught at St John’s University in New York, which commissioned his Three Lyric Pieces for Violin, premièred by Ruggiero Ricci at Lincoln Center in 1969. Morrill studied composition with Robert Palmer in the late 1960s at Cornell, and wrote his dissertation on Darius Milhaud’s early polytonal music. Morrill returned to teach music at Colgate in 1969 and, in the early 1970s, established one of the first mainframe computer studios in the world, with help from colleagues at Stanford University. He returned to Stanford often to study computer music with John Chowning and Leland Smith, and spent a part of his time doing research on the analysis/synthesis of trumpet tones. Morrill is currently Professor Emeritus at Colgate. His computer music compositions have received performances in the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Great Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic and most Western European countries, by the Tarr Brass Ensemble, the Syracuse and Baltimore Symphonies, Lambert Orkis, David Hickman and others. Morrill was a Guest Researcher at IRCAM in 1980, a Visiting Professor of Music at SUNY Binghamton and Stanford Universities, and has received several composition grants from the New York State Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has also worked on special jazz projects for Stan Getz and Wynton Marsalis, and is the author of A Guide to the Big Band Recordings of Woody Herman published by the Greenwood Press. After 1976 Morrill began producing computer music concerts with soprano Neva Pilgrim under the name of Singing Circuits. In the late 1980s he developed a MIDI trumpet instrument with engineer Perry Cook, and he performed on many concerts with cellist Chris Chafe, saxophonist David Demsey and soprano Pamela Jordan. Both Demsey and Jordan recorded complete solo discs of Morrill’s computer music compositions for the Centaur label. Recently Morrill has composed music for violinist Laura Klugherz and pianist Jill Timmons, the Tremont String Quartet, trumpeter Mark Ponzo, saxophonist Stephen Duke, trombonists Jim Pugh and Bill Harris and the Syracuse Symphony.
Dexter Morrill came to the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet through his longtime friendship with NHSQ tenor saxophonist, David Demsey, and in 2004 composed his Six Bagatelles. Morrill sought to showcase the specific talents of the NHSQ and the varied stylistic dimensions of the saxophone quartet. The outer movements, dedicated to the memory of Harry Carney and Zoot Sims respectively, incorporate jazz voicing and style elements while featuring the baritone and tenor saxophones. The final movement includes an improvisation for the tenor saxophone and an improvised cadenza linking movements five and six. Other movements feature the more classical side of the saxophone, most notably the duo between the soprano and alto saxophone in the third movement. Since its composition in 2004 the NHSQ has performed Six Bagatelles many times and, as with the other pieces on this disc, the NHSQ worked closely with the composer in rehearsals and in the preparation and editing of this recording. Six Bagatelles is published by Chenango Valley Music.
Eddie Sauter was one of the most inventive arrangers to emerge during the swing era. His complex and colorful charts were always innovative and defied categorization. Sauter originally played trumpet and drums, and later learned the mellophone. He studied at Columbia University and Juilliard, and from 1935 to 1939 he made a stir in the jazz world as the arranger for Red Norvo’s Orchestra. He worked as a freelancer during the remainder of the swing era with his most notable work for Benny Goodman, writing some of the most advanced music that the clarinetist ever played. In addition, Sauter contributed arrangements to the bands of Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman and (in the postwar years) Ray McKinley. In 1952, Sauter joined forces with fellow arranger Bill Finegan to form the innovative Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. Sauter continued as a freelance writer for stage, film and television, including several collaborations with saxophonist Stan Getz. In the late 1950s and 1960s Sauter also wrote contemporary classical music, including several works for saxophone: Q.T. for the New York Saxophone Quartet, Tanglewood Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra, and Piece for Tuba and Saxophone Quartet.
Eddie Sauter’s Piece for Tuba and Saxophone Quartet was written in 1961 for the eminent tubist Harvey Philips and the New York Saxophone Quartet. While most of Sauter’s music was in the jazz arena or written for stage, film, or television, this piece is an example of his ‘absolute’ music. The work is in four movements, and while there are some elements of jazz, the piece draws equally on classical style and elements. Sauter’s saxophone quartet QT is well known, but the Piece for Tuba and Saxophone Quartet remains unpublished and has only rarely been performed. The NHSQ and tubist Scott Mendoker have collaborated for a number of performances of Sauter’s Piece for Tuba and Saxophone Quartet over the past several seasons. These performances were likely the first since the 1960s, and this première recording introduces this remarkable yet forgotten work by one of America’s unique musical voices.
Eric Ewazen received his B.M. At the Eastman School of Music, and M.M. and D.M.A. degrees from The Juilliard School. His teachers included Milton Babbitt, Samuel Adler, Warren Benson, Joseph Schwantner and Gunther Schuller. He is a recipient of numerous composition awards and prizes. His works have been commissioned and performed by soloists, chamber ensembles and orchestras in the United States and overseas. Individual works of Eric Ewazen have recently been released by the Ahn Trio, Julie Giacobassi of the San Francisco Symphony, Charles Vernon of the Chicago Symphony, Koichiro Yamamoto of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Ronald Barron of the Boston Symphony, Doug Yeo of the Boston Symphony, Steve Witser of the Cleveland Orchestra, Joe Alessi and Philip Smith of the New York Philharmonic, the Horn Section of the New York Philharmonic, the Summit Brass Ensemble and the American Brass Quintet. Ewazen’s music is published by Southern Music Company, International Trombone Association Manuscript Press, Keyboard Publications, Manduca Music, Encore Music, Triplo Music, and Brass Ring Editions. He has been lecturer for the New York Philharmonic’s Musical Encounters Series, Vice-President of the League of Composers—International Society of Contemporary Music, and Composer-In-Residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York City. He has been a faculty member at Juilliard since 1980.
The New Hudson Saxophone Quartet first came to the attention of Eric Ewazen in 2004 when he attended their performance of Calvin Hampton’s Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Chamber Orchestra with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra at Merkin Hall in New York City. After the concert Ewazen and the members of the NHSQ had a chance to meet. Ewazen asked if the NHSQ might be interested in performing his recently composed Rhapsody for saxophone quartet. Rhapsody quickly became a repertoire staple at NHSQ concerts. As with the other pieces on this disc, the NHSQ worked closely with the composer in rehearsals for performances and for this recording. Rhapsody is published by Theodore Presser.
This CD is dedicated to the memory of Jordan Berk and was made possible by the generous support of Norlan and Rosalind Berk in memory of their son.
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