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"Five Miniatures for Saxophone Quartet"

Title Five Miniatures for Saxophone Quartet
ComposerF.G.J. Absil
Instrum.Saxophone Quartet
DateDecember 2005
DurationTotal: 18'55 (5 movements: 3'50 + 4'00 + 4'45 + 4'10 + 2'10)
StyleModal - Atonal (see below)
KeyBb - C - F - F - Bb (various modes)
TempoVarious (fast - slow - medium - slow - fast)


A musical score excerpt
  • Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone.


Five Miniatures for Saxophone Quartet is a collection of pieces in atonal and modal style with jazz and dance music influence.

Mvt. 1: Break Dance, Rock Style, Allegro (132 BPM) - Andantino (72 BPM), Meter: 5/8 -7/8 (irregular meter), Key: Bb modal, 145 mm. (3'50), pp. 1-5.
The theme of this opening movement is based on a modal scale (note the augmented 4th melodic step). This exciting rock style piece is in ternary song form: A (mm. 1-44), B (mm. 45-81), A' (mm. 82-133) with a coda (mm. 134-145). The A sections have frequent irregular meter with strong accents and syncopations. The middle section is somewhat slower (Andantino) with the main theme appearing in a lyrical (bluesy) disguise. The return to the closing section contains phrases with accelerando and alternating tempos.

Mvt. 2: Midi Evil, Andantino (68 BPM) - Allegro (112 BPM), Meter: 4/4 - 3/4 -6/8, Key: C modal (bitonal), 126 mm. (4'00), pp. 6-9.
A number of Medieval and Renaissance cliches appear here with a slight modern twist. We find the open 5ths, the musica ficta, the cantus firmus with counterpoint settings and the occasional brief dance in triple meter. However, the harmonies are coloured with bitonal flavor: we start with A-Dorian in the two upper voices over C-Dorian in the Tenor and Baritone Saxophone. Later the order is reversed (Bb-Dorian over G-Dorian), creating a different harmonic mood. From m. 41 on we enter a more contemporary setting (more dissonance) with a weird hoquetus phrase on a dominant pedal point before returning in m. 91 to the ancient atmosphere that closes the piece.

Mvt. 3: Pia Zollfrei, Tango, Allegro (112 BPM), Meter: 4/4, Key: F modal, 133 mm. (4'45), pp. 10-16.
Picture a 'lady of light entertainment' working in the border zone between the Czech Republic and Germany, luring men with a low budget tango. We hear the 12-tone main theme for the first time in m. 10, played by the Alto Saxophone. The main theme is developed throughout (melodi inversion and diminuition), interspersed with typical tango nuevo rhythms for tutti saxes (for the 1st time in m. 27). The piece is in binary form: A - A'. The 1st section comes to a close with a tremolo phrase (the main theme pitch-class set 7-Z36 in disguised form, mm. 74-80), after which we pick up momentum for the 2nd half, the A'. The coda starts in m. 110, with chromatic ascending bass line, main theme derivatives and the re-occurrence of the tremolo effect, culminating in a frenzy imitation in m. 122, the start of the final climax.

Mvt. 4: Syzygy, Sarabande (62 BPM), Meter: 3/2 - 2/2, Key: F modal, 91 mm. (4'10), pp. 17-19.
The title indicates a special constellation in astronomy (check Wikipedia) and I like the word. This is a slow piece with 4-part homophony almost throughout, reminiscent of a somewhat gloomy Sarabande. Use subtone blowing technique with almost no vibrato to bring out the organ sound effects, when appropriate. In each subsequent phrase the compass is increased (from stepwise motion in cluster type harmonies to 3rd and 4th leaps in open voicings). Mm. 29-41 and 76-82 with the use of a symmetric scale and the inverted bell chords form a brief contrast.

Mvt. 5: Blues Fugue, Allegro (124 BPM), Meter: 4/4, Key: Bb modal, 65 mm. (2'10), pp. 20-23.
A quasi-Baroque 4-part fugue (in fact the re-arrangement of an older counterpoint exercise) based on the Blues scale, with a brief introduction and coda. There are a number of modulating episodes, melodic inversion and stretto (i.e., all the elements of a classical fugue). It feels like a hurried homecoming after a long trip into dissonance.