Saxophone Quartet (1996)

Programme Note: John Buckley

The saxophone, with its enormous expressive potential, combining the dynamic range and power of the brass with the flexibility and agility of the woodwind, has attracted me greatly over the past ten years. This has resulted in three works: Arabesque (1990) for Solo Alto Saxophone, Saxophone Quartet (1996), and Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Strings (1997).

After attending a recital given by the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, I immediately wanted to compose for the medium. With its lack of great historical models the saxophone quartet enables the composer to explore virtually new territories of sonority.

The five movements:
1) Toccata, 2) Passacaglia, 3) Allegro vivace, 4) Elegia, 5) Scherzo
explore a wide range of sonorities, textures and formal structures. The work makes considerable demands on the technical virtuosity of the players, particularly in the 1st, 3rd and 5th movements, which are relentlessly dominated by explosive energy and vigorous rhythmic urgency. The 2nd and 4th movements by contrast are more reflective in character. The Passacaglia is predominantly contrapuntal, while the melancholy Elegia is mainly chordal and blues tinged.

The Saxophone Quartet was commissioned by the Aurelia Quartet and first performed by them in Rotterdam in 1998. The composer gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Arts Council of Ireland. The work is dedicated to the Aurelia Quartet.