Alert rhythmic sense
The Tempest Saxophone Quartet in concert
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER
A single saxophone can be a wonderfully expressive instrument, but a quartet of them is tricky to handle effectively. It makes a much more homogenised sound than a woodwind ensemble, and commands a narrower range of tone than a group of strings. Players, composers and arrangers need to take great care to ensure that it doesn't come out sounding like a lump of musical putty.
Fortunately the Tempest Quartet got the least successful item -- a rather stodgy arrangement of a Rameau gavotte -- out of the way at the start of the evening (Derby Chamber Music, 9 December 2005 at Murray Park School, Derby, UK). It was fascinating to hear what may well be the first-ever piece for this combination, a quartet by Jean-Baptiste Singelée, whose musical language, on this evidence, sits somewhere between Weber and Gounod's Little Symphony for Wind Instruments.
Gershwin found the players at the top of their game, with a swinging arrangement of Somebody Loves Me though it was dishonest to describe Nigel Wood's transcription of Gershwin's orchestral piece simply as An American in Paris when it gave us only about a third of the complete score; 'Medley of themes from ...' would at least have been more accurate.
The Tempest Quartet is a talented bunch of players. Their fluency, responsive gradations of dynamics and alert rhythmic sense ensured an increasingly enjoyable evening.
Copyright © 14 December 2005
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK