The Rascher Saxophone Quartet
Andrew Sterman, saxophones
The Philip Glass Ensemble Woodwinds
1. Movement I 6:22
2. Movement II 4:52
3. Movement III 8:23
4. Movement IV 3:51
MELODIES FOR SAXOPHONE
5. Melody 1 (Alto) 2:52
6. Melody 2 (Soprano) 1:21
7. Melody 3 (Baritone) 2:43
8. Melody 4 (Soprano) 1:18
9. Melody 5 (Tenor) 3:45
10. Melody 6 (Alto) 2:51
11. Melody 7 (Soprano) 1:15
12. Melody 8 (Baritone) 2:12
13. Melody 9 (Tenor) 0:56
14. Melody 10 (Alto) 1:57
15. Melody 11 (Tenor) 1:15
16. Melody 12 (Baritone) 2:00
17. Melody 13 (Tenor) 3:19
18. Part 1 1:28
19. Part 2 4:48
20. Part 3 4:59
It was obvious that we should produce a “Saxophone” CD. Mr. Glass has always written for woodwinds, he has always had saxophonists in his ensemble, almost all of Glass’ compositions (excepting solo piano and String Quartets) have woodwind parts and he himself was a flautist. Once Mr. Glass was asked “why saxophone?” It was not surprising that his first answer was that he was a flautist and knew all the fingerings, but he went on:
“There’s little bit more than that. You have to remember that at that time – 1959, 1960, 1961, the saxophone was really coming into its own, through the very considerable talents of people like Sonny Stitt and John Coltrane, and before that, of course, Charlie Parker. There were so many great players. I heard John Coltrane play in the 1950’s very often. I would hear him at the Village Vanguard in New York or sometimes in Chicago. When he played that thing you understood what Adolph Sax was thinking about. He turned it into a new instrument. Within ten years, a whole generation of young saxophonists picked up the instrument. Among them was Jon Gibson, Dickie Landry, people who I was working with. I think Lamonte Young played a Sopranino saxophone. This was a new exploration of the saxophone, taking it from the world of avant-garde jazz to avant-garde experimental music. That really came about through the infatuation that we all had with John Coltrane’s playing. And so, it was very common to find saxophone players who had sopranos around. When I started the Ensemble in 1968 and ’69, I had three soprano players. I still have three soprano players.”
NOTES ABOUT THE PLAYERS
The Rascher Saxophone Quartet is Carina Rascher on soprano saxophone, Harry White on alto saxophone, Bruce Weinberger on tenor saxophone and Kenneth Coon on baritone saxophone.
Since its formation in 1969, the Rascher Saxophone Quartet has appeared regularly at the major concert halls in the US and Europe: Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Opera Bastille, Royal Festival Hall, Philharmonie Colonge, Schapielhaus Berlin, Musikverien Vienna, etc.
The Rascher Saxophone Quartet carries on a tradition established in the 1930’s by the pioneer of the classical saxophone and founding member Sigurd Rascher who animated many composers to write music especially for him. In a similar fashion the quartet has inspired over 250 composers to dedicate music to them including Glass, Berio, Gudaidulina, Wuorinen, Xenakis and others. All these composers have shared an enthusiasm for the four musician’s unique homogenous tone quality and virtuosity.
Jon Gibson is a composer/improviser, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist who has taken part in numerous landmark musical events over the past three and a half decades. He has performed in the early works of Steve Reich, Terry Riley, LaMonte Young and Philip Glass. He continues to perform and collaborate with Glass in various configurations, including the Philip Glass Ensemble, with Foday Musa Suso, movie music for films by Ralph Steiner and Jonas Mekas, and solo/duet concerts featuring music by both Mr. Glass and Mr. Gibson. Jon Gibson has also worked with a host of other musicians, choreographers and artists including Merce Cunningham, Lucinda Childs, JoAnne Akalaitis, Simone Forti and Nancy Topf. Gibson also received a NYSCA grant to compose a music/theater piece centered around the inventor Nikola Tesla that will be premiered in 2002.
Richard Peck, saxophonist, composer and visual artist joined The Philip Glass Ensemble in 1971. Mr. Peck has performed in the premieres of Einstein on the Beach, Dance, The Photographer, A Descent Into the Maleström, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Hydrogen Jukebox, Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, La Belle et la Bête and Monsters of Grace. Mr. Glass uses Mr. Peck not only as a section player but also in the role of improvisor in selected pieces. Namely to represent the ‘Moloch’ in the production Hydrogen Jukebox and to improvise a solo within the context of Mr. Glass’ The Building from Einstein on the Beach. As a composer, Mr. Peck’s activities have included scoring the Eye and EarTheatre’s staging of Picasso’s Desire Caught By the Tail. Mr. Peck has performed and recorded with David “Fathead” Newman, Carla Bley, Michael Mantler, Michael Oldfield, Public Enemy, Paul Schaeffer, The Raybeats, Paul Butterfield and others.
Andrew Sterman has played flute, piccolo, bass flute, soprano saxophone and bass clarinet in the Philip Glass Ensemble since 1991. Melodies for Saxophone, for soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, recorded here for the first time, was given its concert premiere by Mr Sterman in 1995 in several duo recitals with the composer. He has also performed or recorded with Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Joe Williams, Dr John, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Stephanie Mills, Liza Minnelli, Wallace Roney, Ravi Coltrane, Frank Wess, Sonny Fortune, Pharaoh Sanders, Fred Hersh, Rashied Ali and appeared as soloist with the EOS Orchestra, Bang On A Can, International Society For Contemporary Music and Music At The Anthology.
Mr. Sterman composes for his own chamber jazz unit and for the loose improvisation ensemble Fish Love That. Mr. Sterman has developed a unique method of teaching the art of woodwind playing, based on his long study of breathing techniques from Asian healing traditions (including tai ji and qigong) and his love and study of the early historical recordings of great master musicians in the Western tradition. He teaches privately in New York and has conducted clinics at major music schools in America and abroad.
NOTES ABOUT THE PIECES
Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra was commissioned by the Rascher Saxophone Quartet in 1995 and the symphonic version can be found on a Nonesuch Recording titled Symphony No. 2 released in 1998. To date the Rascher Saxophone Quartet has performed this work 90 times!
Glass described his process:
“I wrote it two ways. Bruce Wienberger, the tenor player from Rascher Saxophone Quartet, asked me to write a saxophone concerto and said that they wanted a piece that could be both a concerto with orchestra and a version for quartet. He said ‘do you think you can do that?’ And I said, well, I do, but the question is, do I write the orchestra version first and then reduce it to quartet, or do I write the quartet first and then rescore it for orchestra. He had no idea. I decided that the hardest thing would be the quartet version, because every note had to be played by the four people. So if I solved the problem of the quartet version I could re-orchestrate. So I wrote the version we have, the quartet version, and then I wrote the orchestra version in such a way in that each movement features a particular saxophone. One features soprano, one is baritone… Each movement of the concerto version would feature the soloist and the orchestra would pick up the other parts. So that in the orchestra version you get a saxophone quartet with the orchestra, but each movement features one of the members of the quartet. There are places, like in the last movement, when all four are playing together. In a way, the recital version is an extremely difficult piece to play, because not only does each movement feature one of the saxophones, but the other three have to play all the other orchestra parts. They are tooting away the whole time. And they do this live, they’ve performed it perhaps thirty or forty times, and the orchestra version probably another thirty or forty times.”
Andrew Sterman writes about Melodies for Solo Saxophone: “I looked back at the score Phil originally gave me, and he has nothing but numbers and metronome tempo suggestions at the top of each piece, with occasionally a pencil-written comment like ‘peppy’. His recommendations for which horn to use were very broad, like ‘alto or tenor’, and ‘whatever works’.
We originally recorded the Melodies for Saxophone as ‘incidental’ music for a production of Jean Genet’s Prisoner Of Love. At first a set of twelve short solo pieces, Philip added the thirteenth for dramatic purposes at the director’s request. In the play the pieces functioned as a kind of chorus, adding intensity and perspective to Genet’s writing.
For Philip the Melodies also functioned as a sketch pad for the saxophone quartet he was composing, commissioned by the Rascher Quartet. Several of the Melodies did find their way into the Quartet, but here in their original solo form, without accompanying rhythmic pattern or explicit harmony, they expose with surprising intensity and elegance the integration of melody, meter, rhythm, harmonic color and form. Listening to the Melodies for Saxophone is not at all an experience of hearing sketches for a larger piece; to the contrary the Melodies have an uncanny way of holding the ear’s attention by their sheer and mysterious beauty.
Although clearly calling for a free approach to sound color, the Melodies are very strictly notated. As always with Philip’s music, the invitation is to abandon “classical” conventions altogether and bring out in the music the fresh integration of melodic line, harmonic implication, rhythmic intensity and formal clarity that he has achieved. This is especially true with this set of brilliant solo pieces, that ask for a performance that is full of life and features the unparalleled scope of the saxophone’s expressive flexibility.”
The Windcatcher began as a flute and piano piece composed in 1992 for a uncompleted short film project. It was transcribed for saxophone sextet by Nico Muhly with the express intent that the veteran Philip Glass Ensemble woodwind players would be represented on this CD. Messrs. Gibson, Peck and Sterman have made enormous contributions to Philip Glass’ music for several years (over 70 years among them!) and their ongoing participation in the ensemble continues to assure its excellence. This Michael Riesman-produced recording exhibits their extraordinary ensemble sensibilities and their keen understanding of Philip’s music. After some musical changes in the piece and a significant edit, Philip Glass thought that the piece should be renamed and chose the new title The Windcatcher.
— Don Christensen
Saxophone Concerto (Quartet Version): Performed by the Rascher Saxophone Quartet: Carina Rascher, soprano saxophone; Bruce Weinberger, tenor saxophone; Harry Kinross White, alto saxophone; Kenneth Coon, baritone saxophone.
Produced by Kurt Munkacsi and Michael Riesman.
Melodies for Saxophone: Performed by Andrew Sterman. Produced by Michael Riesman.
The Windcatcher: Performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble Woodwinds: Jon Gibson, Richard Peck, Andrew Sterman. Produced by Michael Riesman and Don Christensen.
Saxophone CD: Produced by Don Christensen. Engineered by Hector Castillo. Assistant engineer: Mario McNulty. Executive Producers: Philip Glass and Kurt Munkacsi.
Special thanks to Nico Muhly, Kara Bilof and Alden Banta and Scott Shachter for their baritone saxes.
Philip Glass’s music is published by Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc. (ASCAP)
A Euphorbia Production for Orange Mountain Music, 632 Broadway, Suite 902, New York, NY 10012.
℗ and © 2002 Orange Mountain Music.