Getting to Know You Too

This week, Nick met the Arcis Saxophone Quartet and enjoyed their concert at Wigmore Hall!

Did you see the news last week that Hello Stage had welcomed its 10,000th member, and could claim to be the world’s largest online classical music community. The nice thing about such a community is that it’s not all virtual. Given the nature of musicians’ calling, they like to compose, rehearse and perform in front of real people, so there’s a chance to meet them. I had just such a pleasure last Saturday when a young German saxophone quartet made its London debut at Wigmore Hall, under the auspices of the European Chamber Music Academy. It hosted a three-day showcase of young ensembles, also including the Mettis String Quartet and Meta4, as well as the Boccherini Trio, who opened the concert I attended with Reger’s first String Trio.

Then came the Arcis Saxophone Quartet, who not only filled Wigmore Hall with (counting the encore) a quartet of scintillating pieces but also created a golden glow in the polished wooden sides of the hall, reflecting the majesty of the four instruments. I can think of no other instruments that have had such a visual effect in this hall. And there was thrilling playing in an engaging short programme which took a leaf out of two wind quintet originals: Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet (itself an arrangement by Ligeti himself of his solo piano Muisca ricercata but here arranged for saxophones by Fabio Oehri) and, from fellow Hungarian, Ferenc Farkas’ triptych of Old Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century, which Farkas himself re-fashioned for saxophone quartet in 1961, two years after his original. The other two works were 21st century French: Fabien Lévy’s Durch, in memoriam Gérard Grisey and, as the encore, Philippe Greis Patchwork, both of which required additional techniques to just blowing over the single reed of each of the instruments. Lévy’s was notable for clucking into the reed, forming a short, snappy flapping sound, while Greis’ patchwork included not only instrumental sounds but rhythmic vocalising. It was a heady, enjoyable mix and was much appreciated.

So Claus, Ricarda, Claudia and Jure – the four who make up the quartet – are definitely worth searching out if they’re heading to a concert venue near you. Not only have they now wowed London, but they have won prizes in competitions in Germany (both Berlin and Munich), Russia and Italy and they’ve got some impressive plans for the future – so keep an eye on Arcis’ Hello Stage page. It was lovely to meet them. I hope to meet more Hello Stagers as they pass through London (or, indeed, as I travel elsewhere).

I see from their repertoire list that Arcis play both Philip Glass’ Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra and his Saxophone Quartet. They could easily fit in one of the Barbican’s new festivals: Reich, Glass, Adams: The Sounds that Changed America – stretching throughout the 16/17 season – to accommodate three major minimalist birthday milestones. Two octogenarians Steve Reich (on 3 October 2016) and Philip Glass (on 31 January 2017), are followed by John Adams, who celebrates his 70th birthday on 15 February 2017. Each composer/performer will make appearances during the festival, while in over 170 concerts just announced, the Barbican, also celebrates singers Jonas Kaufmann and Gerald Finley, pianist Murray Perahia’s 70th birthday and welcomes artists as disparate as Daniil Trifonov and John Malkovich. That should keep Londoners busy!

More anon.

© Nick Breckenfield, 2016

Nick Breckenfield has worked in and around the classical music industry over the last 25 years - at venues, agencies and as a programme note writer and marketeer. He was Classical Music editor for Whatsonwhen for 13 years, and current clients include the Borletti-Buitoni Trust.
Author: Nick Breckenfield
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