Stockholm Saxophone Quartet;

Stockholm Saxophone QuartetENCORES

Leif Karlborg [tenor saxophone on tracks 1 - 3, 5, 6, 10 - 14, 16, 17] –
Per Hedlund [baritone saxophone on tracks 1 - 3, 5, 6, 10 - 12; bass saxophone on tracks 13, 14] –
Jörgen Pettersson [soprano saxophone on track 13; alto saxophone on tracks 1 – 12, 16, 17;
baritone saxophone on track 14] –
Sven Westerberg [soprano saxophone on tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 11, 13 – 17;
tenor saxophone on track 3, 5, 12]

Eva Runefelt [recitation on tracks 7 – 9] – Jens Malmkvist [baritone on track 15]

Daniel NelsonDror FeilerJonas BohlinKarin Rehnquist
Ingvar Karkoff Johan JeverudErik FörareArne Mellnäs
Erland von KochSten MelinSergej Dmitriev
S Pat Simmerud Jan W. MorthensonMats Larsson Gothe

Phono Suecia PSSACD 146. Duration: 58:37

01. Daniel Nelson: Full Throttle (1999) [3:09]

02. Dror Feiler: Ki (1998) [5:01]

03. Jonas Bohlin: Deep Beeps (1998) [4:59]

04. Karin Rehnquist: Rescfue Me From Sinking In the Mud (1994) [4:20]

05. Ingvar Karkoff: Tzivaeri (1995) [3:05]

06. Johan Jeverud: Piece in Colours of Autumn 1989) [3:44]

07. Erik Förare: Three Poems; The Desolation (1999) [2:17]

08. Erik Förare: Three Poems; The The Slowness (1999) [2:02]

09. Erik Förare: Three Poems; Moment (1999) [1:27]

10. Arne Mellnäs: No Roses for Madame F (1991) [2:07]

11. Erland von Koch: Dance nr 2 (1938) [2:33]

12. Sten Melin: The Cellar Slope Variations (1993) [2:16]

13. Sergej Dmitriev: Intrada (1993) [1:28]

14. Sergej Dmitriev: The Vikings are Coming (1998) [3:23]

15. S Pat Simmerud: Soli (1997) [6:27]

16. Jan W. Morthenson: Chorale (1987) [4:17]

17. Mats Larsson Gothe: Gopak (1989) [4:52]

Stockholm Saxophone Quartet:
Leif Karlborg; Per Hedlund; Jörgen Pettersson;
Sven Westerberg
(Photo: Ulrika Ljungberg)

This is a mighty quartet in its own right. In excess of 400 (four hundred!) musical works have been composed especially for these four musicians. Stockholm Saxophone Quartet has been active for twenty years by now (New Year 2005).
They have worked closely with Swedish as well as international composers, and one important aspect of their activity has been a close collaboration with students of composition at the Royal College of Music. Similar projects are planned in Moscow and Cairo.

Stockholm Saxophone Quartet also participates in cross-cultural meetings with artists from other disciplines.

The group has its own quarters in the center of Stockholm, at Thulegatan 53, where they have their rehearsal space as well as recording possibilities. This place has become an important focal point for much of Stockholm’s art music scene, adding to the other modern music centers of the Swedish capital.

The Quartet has traveled extensively, playing stages as far apart as Mongolia, South Africa and Brazil.

Daniel Nelson’s
Full Throttle at track 1 gears up in staccato thumps that are syncopated in intricate Conlon Nancarrow patterns, in varied tempi progressing in layers, minimalistically, after a while reminiscent of some American styles of late, in the vein of John Adams, for example. The different saxophones played by the quartet deliver a tapestry of repetitious gestures in a sound world that is tightly woven but – by virtue of the clean recording and the sophisticated playing techniques – clearly discernable in its minute details.

Enfant terrible Dror Feiler is next. This composer/musician has two distinctive faces; the one being one of fierce desperation and rage, the other of poetic introversion and tenderness. An alternate take on both aspects can be enjoyed on one of his previous CDs,
The Celestial Fire.
His entry here –
Ki – falls into the second group, with a Yiddish atmosphere growing out of the initial gestures, beautifully Central European, hearty fondling in caressing care. The slow melody talks in melancholy but restful insights, apparently from inside someone who has seen much, but who has come to terms with his life, or should we say… with life…
The serenity and stillness is immense, yet charged with meaning, with sensual loss and consoled anger at the bottom of the chalice.
When someone like Dror Feiler talks like this, you listen – and it becomes a moment of reverence and reflection; a moment of stillness right in the flood of passing impressions. This is beauty with a meaning.

Johan Bohlin’s
Deep Beeps occupies track 3. Here is a wilder act in play, with rattling valve techniques and repetitious thuds rising through the pitches on a background of droning slurs of saxophone audio. The wilderness is harnessed, though, to a higher degree than the first tones would suggest, and an exemplary unobtrusiveness and a sense of withheld might materialize in the chords.
Later Bohlin sports a pausing technique that makes good use of silences, out of which a more exclamatory, monologous chatter is presented; poisonous flowers rising towards the sun in meandering slow motion, jingling in a forest meadow – until suddenly the music stops in its tracks, in the middle of a step forth, like a roll of film breaking off in a projector, a green woodpecker landing on an ant-hill.

Well-known Swedish composer Karin Rehnquist participates with a piece called
Rescue Me From Sinking in the Mud at track 4.
Rehnquist originally wrote this piece for soprano and alto saxophone, applying old cattle-calling song techniques. These figurines and evocating tonal gestures can easily be detected in the magnificence of this version for saxophone quartet. The high pitches of the saxophones grasp for us like outstretched arms, fingers sprawling, but though this may sound grotesque or offensive, calling to mind the desperation of the poorest of poor approaching senselessly rich tourists, the music in fact is slender, transparent, utterly beautiful, in a tone of urgency and some kind of fanfare! Yes, you could brand this art music cattle-calling fanfares! The soaring tension between the swaying and stretching tones create quite an exciting and pleasurable listening experience.

Ingvar Karkoff introduces a short work at track 5;
Tzivareri. Here he works with a melody from the Greek isles, dancing forth in a slowly rocking motion, solemn and collected, on this side of sorrow, on the other side of bad news – in a coming-to-terms calm. This isn’t art music as such, but rather an arrangement of a folk tune – but as such dearly close and warm, kindhearted and sweet, on the darker side of emotional spectra; old age and memories and loss…

Johan Jeverud’s piece at track 6 is called
Piece in Colours of Autumn, in its British spelling. Jeverud calls his work a series of melancholy fall pictures in a mode that is inspired by atmospheres of the Balkans.
The splendor of these little brass gestures enter your hearing in the most tasty guises, withheld colors and rounded tones that don’t hurt, but fondle you like the smooth fingers of a loved one – but then a joke; a jazzy figure that explodes like a tickle in your armpit!
It’s a little dance, treading this way, stopping, looking around, treading that way, hiding behind a pillar, peeping from behind it, jolting out onto the floor, readily exposed, a little vain and blushing– and the short bagatelle ends on a question mark!

Stockholm Saxophone Quartet at a Fylkingen rehearsal
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

Erik Förare exposes three poems for recitation and alto saxophone at tracks 7, 8 and 9, called The Desolation; The Slowness; Moment. The poems are written by poet Eva Runefelt, who also recites them here (Furthermore, Eva Runefelt wrote part of the booklet text).
Förare says: “I was seeking an intimate, literal musical interpretation that would penetrate the poem, with open intervals and quarter tones intensifying the expression.”
Sounding like a French horn calling in the mountains, the melody starts, and recitation begins very soon. The playing is decorative, like old golden frames ‘round a painting – but the recitation isn’t the best. Perhaps poets should refrain from reciting their own poetry, unless they’re called Allen Ginsberg or Göran Sonnevi or Bruno K Öijer.
The playing surrounds the recitation with the best possible of environments, but this doesn’t help the poor reading, I’m sorry to say. The balance between the music and the voice isn’t right, either.

No Roses for Madame F is the title of track 10. The composer is late Arne Mellnäs. It’s a very short, jolly melodious piece that seems to play its way lustfully ahead, with no worries attached, slenderly, easily, dancing… It’s summer, it’s light and it’s warm! Yes, life can be like this too, sometimes! The little orchestra stands up in the clearing, brass instruments shining and gleaming, little kids running about with cotton candy and loud shrieks, their mothers’ skirts flying in the wind, the men in jackets with inserted pocket flasks; Saturday and townsfolk socializing. In reality, of course, this is a tango…

Erland von Koch is the oldest name in this crowd of composers. His piece at track 11 is
Dance nr 2, which is the rather anonymous name of this short incident. The work was written back in 1938, and it has been arranged for saxophone quartet by von Koch himself.
The music is elegant, a child of its time, a fast, picturesque music of rural circumstances – and it could be fetched from one of the many simple movies with a moral attached that overflowed Sweden back in the 1930s. I can’t help but see scenes from some of those movies in my head when hearing this flowing, pausing and rushing incident, so graphic, vivid and expressive – and of course; black and white!

Sten Melin’s
Källarbacksvariationer (Cellar Slope Variations) sits at track 12.
Melin is currently the President of the Society of Swedish Composers.
His music is often equipped with a drastic humor, and he mostly composes for the smaller format.
The theme that Melin works here is an old, traditional folk tune about someone who has his loved one up in the cellar slope. We’re in an older era now, when the cellars were highly functional earth cellars placed somewhere on the farm.
All Swedes are familiar with this tune, so they can easily enjoy the variations and laugh at the curious ways that Melin treats the tradition.
He sure brings the song into a hall of humor where he kind of obliterates and reshapes the melody in many a way, in many a style; be-bop and swing and other historical trends – but never beyond the possibility of recognition. Fun!

At tracks 13 and 14 we find a composer with the Russian name Sergej Dmitriev. He does indeed come from Russia, all the way from Novosibirsk. He came to Sweden to complete his compositional studies, and has stayed on.
At track 13 he presents his very short incident
Intrada. It approaches in cut-up portions, sometimes wave-like, sometimes in sharper, staccato surges. It sounds to me more like an exam piece, a study of sorts, and it ends almost before it starts – but it’s not without interest.

Dmitriev’s work at track 14 is a little more extended, entitled
The Vikings are Coming. It has an inconspicuous, low beginning, in which you hear the rustling of valves as much as the music, since the music is played so low and silently. Long rests are inserted, and after a while deeper, resounding densities are offered, and the other saxophones add texture and atmosphere. The piece gradually picks up density and direction, marching off in a swaggering gait that has power and force and a stooping sentiment, forward, forward, head swinging back and forth. It’s almost minimalist in its expression and its spiraling motion forward.

S Pat Simmerud introduces his
Soli at track 15. It’s actually a remaining part of an unfinished chamber opera. It was indeed the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet that suggested to Simmerud that this part be performed as a separate work for a singer and a soprano saxophone. Jens Malmkvist is the baritone.
This piece includes undefined electric sound devices and percussive instruments.
The singer sings, screams, recites, sing-talks and whispers, and the saxophone paints, howls, flutters; moves in all kinds of gestures. The pattern in which the work appears is typically modern opera or text sound work, reminding me quite a bit of many other works by other composers, like, for instance, those of Sven-Erik Bäck.
Some instances with the soprano saxophone playing against the tape are intriguing, compelling, highly interesting, while most of the work falls right in line with the all-too-safe tradition of modern Swedish opera.

Jan W. Morthenson is one of the true heroes of Swedish contemporary music in a variety of disciplines, not least the very early electronic music of Sweden.
Here he participates with his piece
Chorale at track 16.
Chorale is a paraphrase over a folkloristic chorale from the district of Dalarna in Middle Sweden.
The long, held tones spread like rays of light through the composition, rendering it a heavenly, other-worldly gender, beyond life and death, in a state of reconciliation and endless beauty; a fathomless peace of mind.
Simultaneously Morthenson manages to keep a streak of religious nonconformism in the timbres.
The sense of Dalecarlia folk music, with calls reaching from ridge to ridge across forested valleys with small open clearings, is retained in a sensitive dexterity, and this being a fruit of Jan W Morthenson’s skill, I’d been surprised if I hadn’t been impressed. I am impressed!

The last piece of this Stockholm Saxophone Quartet portrait CD is Mats Larsson Gothe’s
Gopak. This work originates in a study project with the Quartet, and is based on a Ukraine dance, the Gopak.
Larsson Gothe immediately casts himself and the Quartet into an intense, conversative outpour, in dense and packed circumstances that hardly leave room for breathing, spinning off an occasional jubilant serpentine and some loud saxophone hollers of metallic properties.
However, he slows down dramatically, in a man depressive way, falling directly from the intensity of mania to the lowly slowness of introspection and remorse – or whatever it is… and it is beautiful, ear-catching – until he hits it again and rushes off in haste and busy pillars of air in brass!