Quintessence Saxophone Quintet – VIVALDI’s Seasons (2008)

by | Apr 22, 2010 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Quintessence Saxophone Quintet – VIVALDI’s Seasons (2008)

Program: The Four Seasons; The Fifth Season; Eine kleine nachtmusik; Rondo alla Turka; The Chicken; Wow!; 25 plus, Fudge Fugue; QSQ Goes Pop
Producer/Director: Michael Schnurr
Studio: CPO Special 777 535-2 (Distri. by Naxos)
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: DD 5.1 & 2.0
All regions
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: ****

Expanding the usual sax quartet by one instrument, Quintessence has been amazing audiences around the world for some years and have recorded 11 CDs and a previous DVD. This one was filmed during a concert in Germany, where the ensemble is based, in 2008.

The quintet chose to create their own answer to the many different transcriptions and improvisations which have been based on Vivaldi’s popular set of violin concertos. All the members have had some jazz training as well as classical and thus had little trouble coming with a stylized version in modern jazz idiom. One German reviewer said each of the solo sections that come up in the work show off a “second Charlie Parker” in the skilled improvisational chops each of the five members possess. In addition to previous CDs on Mozart and Beethoven, Quintessence has also done albums on “Jazzessentials of Bach” and “Essentials of Jazz.”

A wider range of pitch is provided by the quintet setup, including a bass saxophone. There is also a spirit of fun about Quintessence, even to the extend of their doing a bit of choreographed footwork on some of the tunes.  The visual images are mostly of their onstage performance, but there are also cutaways to the group getting ready for a concert, strolling in a park, and various other activities. The visual quality and surround sound are both first rate. They added a Season 5 to Vivaldi’s 4 as a group project; it emulates a sort of dream sequence, quoting some of Vivaldi’s melodies here and there.

The other seven selections were actually the second half of their live concert and are listed as the bonus features of the DVD – some lighter, more jazz-oriented numbers including the two delightful Mozart numbers and the Bach Fugue creation.  I’ve long been a fan of sax quartets and quintets, whether jazz or classical, and Quintessence is one of the best in the world.

 – John Sunier 

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