H2 Quartet – Groove Machine – Works of MARC MELLITS; AMY WILLIAMS; THIERRY ESCAICH; MURRAY GROSS; VICTOR M. BARRIOS; ALEXANDROS MARKEAS – Blue Griffin Saxology Quartet – English Quartets – Works of HOROVITZ; HARVEY; SULZMANN; WILSON; JACOB; ELGAR-HILL; WILSON; BULLARD; CHAPPLE – Meridian

by | Jun 22, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

H2 Quartet – Groove Machine – MARC MELLITS: Revolution; AMY WILLIAMS: Univocity; THIERRY ESCAICH: Tango Virtuoso; MURRAY GROSS: The Wild Wild West; VICTOR M. BARRIOS: Sexteto; ALEXANDROS MARKEAS: Engrenages – Blue Griffin BGR245, 55:47 [Distr. by Albany] ****: 
Saxology Quartet – English Quartets – HOROVITZ: Var. on a Theme of Paganini; HARVEY: The Harfleur Song; SULZMANN: Steam!; WILSON: Megan & Cei; JACOB: Sax Quartet No. 2; ELGAR-HILL: Salut d’amour; WILSON: Folk Song Suite; BULLARD: Three Picasso Portraits; CHAPPLE: A Bit of a Blow – Meridian CDE 84376, 73:50 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
For some reason the H2 Quartet seems to want to disguise the fact that they are in fact one of the many saxophone quartets now active around the world. While many sax quartets straddle the genres between jazz, pop and classical, both of these quartets concentrate on the classical side, though the title for the H2 CD comes out of the opening work by Marc Mellits, Revolution. It shows the influence of rock music on contemporary American composers, and “Groove Machine” is the last of its four movements. Amy Williams’ short piece goes back to the mid-20th century with rhythmic pointillist sounds. Tango Virtuoso is highly influenced by the tangos of Piazzolla, and The double-wild West takes the usual Western harmonies into serialized territory. The four movements of Saxteto show off the versatility of the H2 players, blending South American elements such as the Brazilian choro, Venezuelan folk tunes and the Pambiche. In the final track, pianist Sergei Kvitko joins the sax quartet with some jazzy piano improvisations. This is obviously a sax quartet unafraid of new music.
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The H2 Quartet has one female member, and Saxology is evenly divided: two males and two females. Only recently has it been possible in England to study the saxophone to graduate level in any sort of music. Saxology wanted to examine the breadth of repertory available to today’s classical sax quartet. The opening Variations on a Theme of Paganini has been done before by various composers, but this eight-minute work makes a starting point for the program. Gordon Jacob is known for his many works for woodwinds, and Saxology considers his Second Sax Quartet of four movements to be a masterpiece of sax quartets. Can’t find much more of an English musical bonbon than this arrangement of Elgar’s famous Salut d’amour. Wilson’s Folk Song Suite follows in the steps of Percy Grainger and others by using four English folk songs. Saxology commissioned the Three Picasso Portraits of composer Alan Bullard. They were inspired by three of his paintings from the inter-war years: “Harlequin,” “Weeping Woman,” and “Three Dancers.”  A Bit of a Blow – which began as a piano solohas five short movements and shows a definite jazz influence.
—John Sunier

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