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
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
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
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!
© 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.