Composition Date: 2007
Instrumentation: saxophone quartet(ssx.asx.tsx.barsx)/strings
Commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Norrbotten Chamber Orchestra and Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, for the Rascher Saxophone Quartet.
First Performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker at City Halls, Glasgow, January 2008.
for saxophone quartet and strings
for the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet
This work has two main sources of inspiration. One is the extraordinary artistry of the Rascher Quartet, to whom it is dedicated, and the other is Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos – works I grew up with, and which have always held a fascination for me. I have used the idea of ‘concertante’ and ‘ripieno’, with the saxophones featured both as an entity and as individual soloists. There are also soloists within the string group.
The first movement is modelled on the first movement of Brandenburg Four, following the structure quite closely, with similar points of tension and climax, using shifts of meter and virtuosic doubling of tempo.
The second movement takes as its starting point an exact canon, with ornamentation that stems both from the Baroque, and from traditional Scottish music. The canon at times hints at the contrapuntal nature of Gaelic psalm, set against direct quotes from Brandenburg Six in the ‘walking’ bass line.
The last movement uses a simple pentatonic theme, which is introduced as a fugato, in the manner of many of Bach’s finales. Although the semiquavers remain regular, the meter alters and destabilises. Transposed sequences, in the baroque tradition, are undermined by wild saxophone interjections. The music condenses and overlaps, before a repeated, rough, chordal motif is introduced, which precipitates the ending.
This work was commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (with funding from the Scottish Goverment and the Britten Pears Foundation), the Norrbottens Kammarorkester and the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, for the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, and first performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker, at the City Halls, Glasgow, on 18th January 2008. It was given its Scandinavian premiere on 24th January in Luleå, Sweden by the Norrbottens Kammarorkester conducted by Peter Sundkvist. Its German premiere was given by the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester in 2008.
Sally Beamish 2008