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Sonic.art Performing Ligeti, Turr, Katzer, Levy, Neuwirth, Xenakis

Ligeti / Tuur / Katzer / Sonic Art Saxophonquartet
Release Date: 02/23/2010 
Label:  Genuin Classics   Catalog #: 10164   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Erkki-Sven TüürGeorg KatzerFabien LevyOlga Neuwirth,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sonic.Art Saxophone Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SONIC.ART SAXOPHONE QUARTET Sonic.Art Saxophone Quartet GENUIN 10164 (67:26)

LIGETI 6 Bagatelles. TÜÜR Lamentatio. KATZER Wie ein Hauch … doch manchmal. LÉVY Durch. NEUWIRTH Ondate. Read more class="COMPOSER12">XENAKIS Xas

Readers interested in contemporary music for saxophone quartet—I guess that is a rather useless categorization, since there are relatively few works written for the saxophone that are not contemporary—should audition this recording by the 2008 German Music Competition (DMW) winners, the Sonic.Art Saxophone Quartet. Recorded under the auspices of the German Music Council, which sponsors the DMW, this program includes two relatively well-known works by Ligeti and Xenakis as contrasting bookends to a collection of otherwise unavailable original pieces for saxophone quartet.

The Ligeti Bagatelles were originally written as part of a set of piano etudes and arranged for woodwind quintet by the composer. This version for saxophone quartet was produced in 1997 by Guillaume Bourgogne with the composer’s approval. They are by far the most accessible pieces on the CD, written in 1953 when Ligeti was still in his Bartók and Stravinsky mode. Short—the six works last only a few seconds over 12 minutes—they are witty and playful in these skillful arrangements, lacking only the variety of color offered by the original wind quintet. The Xenakis work Xas (“sax” backward) could not be a greater contrast. The Greek composer’s only work for saxophone, and one of his very few for winds, it was written for the Raschèr Quartet in 1987 after much prodding by the ensemble. A major work, designed to exploit all that the ensemble could do, it is, as one would expect, uncompromisingly mathematical. Still, there are periods that are comparatively reflective that set off the more insistent—some would say abrasive—music at the core of the concept. Both of these pieces are included on a Habanera Saxophone Quartet CD (Alpha), brilliantly played, but harder-edged in these two works than the Sonic.Art performances. Sonic.Art in no way short-changes the strident multiphonics and extreme altissimo in the Xenakis, and it observes the prohibition on vibrato, yet makes the piece seem more musically expressive. The Ligeti is played with both vibrancy and great charm.

The other works are welcome additions to the recorded repertoire, especially in such sympathetic performances. The sequencing is particularly intelligent, taking one stepwise from the sensibility of the Ligeti to the stochastic calculations of the Xenakis. Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Lamentatio is an intensely emotional response to the 1994 loss of the ferry Estonia and the hundreds of passengers onboard. Tüür was scheduled to travel the day it sank. The writing, which occasionally reminds one of later Ligeti, seems almost electronic at times, an impression enhanced by the quartet’s subtle production of multiphonics and its purity of sound. At other times it is almost hymn-like and, at its climax, wrenchingly dramatic. German composer Georg Katzer’s Wie ein Hauch …doch manchmal (Like a Breath …Yet Sometimes) often seems electronic as well, not surprising given the composer’s extensive work in that and electro-acoustic composition. It is as enigmatic as its title, alternating between tonality and unresolved dissonance, and between uncertainty and brash forthrightness. With Fabian Lévy’s Durch (Through) the program moves even more toward Xenakis’ sound, though more precisely the French composer is a spectralist. The structure of the work is, as he states in his online notes, concerned with “the relationship of the whole to the individual parts” using the analogy of a mosaic made up of many tiles of simpler rhythmic or coloristic elements. The piece is structured to draw the listener into the detail as well as the whole, and the development, such as it is, seems to approximate the experience of repeatedly moving from an examination of the tiles to a viewing of the picture as a whole and back. Finally, Austrian Olga Neuwirth’s Ondate works with layers of sound and color, many involving extreme use of extended techniques. It has no apparent structure at all, seeming much of the time as an organically produced sequence of random episodes, and as such is the perfect lead-in to the Xenakis work.

Throughout, the virtuosity of the ensemble is amazing. Sound quality is superb. The booklet, rather thin on composer and work information, focuses on the competition and on an interview with the players in which they explain their choice of repertoire. The disc is highly recommended to those who share their regard for avant-garde compositions.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Lamentatio, for 4 saxophones by Erkki-Sven Tüür
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sonic.Art Saxophone Quartet
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal, Cologn 
Length: 10 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Wie ein Hauch...doch manchmal, for 4 saxophones by Georg Katzer
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal, Cologn 
Length: 16 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Durch, for 4 saxophones by Fabien Levy
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal, Cologn 
Length: 7 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Ondate, for 4 saxophones by Olga Neuwirth
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal, Cologn 
Length: 11 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Xas by Iannis Xenakis
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; France 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal, Cologn 
Length: 8 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Musica ricercata (11) for Piano by György Ligeti
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951-1953; Hungary 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal, Cologn 
Length: 11 Minutes 28 Secs. 

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