Saxophone Quartet

For the majority of this semester, I was working on a piece for saxophone quartet. The piece was written in a Neoclassical style. It uses modern harmonies but is organized in a Classical style. It is in two movements, and is my longest work to date, being approximately twelve minutes in duration.

The first movement is slow, quiet, and hymn-like. The movement introduces the atonality of the piece, presented in a homophonic texture imitating a hymn, though with changing meters. The movement highlights chords which are constructed with the pitch set 0-1-6, the pitch set which permeates much of the entire piece. The movement is in a large binary form. It ends with a quiet cadential phrase ending on the main pitch set. The alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones drop out while the soprano continues holding its pitch until the second movement begins attacca.

The second movement is organized in a large sonata form, though because the piece is atonal it is not organized in the traditional way, by tonal area. Rather, the form is organized by thematic material and contrasting styles and tempi. This whole movement, though particularly the first thematic area, is filled with changing, irregular meters, and the writing throughout the movement is highly contrapuntal with melodic writing in all parts. The first thematic area, which is marked allegro agitato, is defined by the quick, repeated, staccato eighth notes that begin immediately. The first few notes of both themes are based on the 0-1-6 pitch set. The second thematic area is marked andante cantabile, a slower tempo with much morelegato writing. The texture is also much more sparse, with solo and duet passages interspersed with the full quartet. The section ends with a quiet statement of the same ending material as the first movement, before the retransition begins, increasing the tempo and moving back into the first thematic area. The entire exposition is repeated, though slightly paraphrased. The development, which is entirely in the tempo of the first thematic area, is filled with highly contrapuntal writing, much of it imitative, working through much of the material in the exposition. The development ends with the same material as the exposition, though ritardando rather than accelerando. The recapitulation returns to the same style and tempo as the first thematic area of the exposition, though this time the theme from the second thematic area is played instead. The second thematic area also reverses themes, with the first theme being played at the slower tempo and more legato style. The recapitulation draws to a close with material based on the end of the exposition, though with significantly quicker, more complicated rhythms. After a brief pause, the movement ends with a short, quick, loud passage marked allegro furioso which acts like an exclamation point to end the whole piece.

The piece is going to be performed on my composition recital on April 21 by a saxophone quartet at St. Olaf which includes two other senior music education students. I’m very excited to hear it performed by real saxophones, rather than just the computer playback.