Hometown sounds

Works reviewed: 
Internal Bleeding (1996), Mark Engebretson
Saxophone Quartet, Michael Sahl
Suite for Saxophone Quartet, Walter Hartley
Buffalo News, The
Buffalo, NY
Feb 23 2001
By: 
Jan Jezioro

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet presented a stylishly performed program entitled "Buffalo's Own" Thursday evening at Slee Hall. The works on the program were all by composers who have a strong Western New York connection. The program is to be repeated at 7:30 tonight at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Composer Mark Engebretson joined his wife, Susan Fancher, on soprano saxophone, in his quintet, "Internal Bleeding," a work which packs a huge amount of sonic variety into a short time span. Fancher and Engebretson opened with some high, elongated detached notes, ending in a snarl. The low voices offered a commentary, and in the ensuing dialogue the soprano voices managed to reach an unearthly high, before the conversation dissolved in cacophony. A tongue-slapping passage produced a surprisingly percussive Latin feel, while tenor Stephen Rosenthal's repeated playing of a single note had a fog-horn effect. Fancher played a passage with a snake-charming flavor, while the repeated, bobbing low notes of the other instruments gave the impression of snakes being charmed. Definitely a fun piece.

Jonathan Golove's "Closely Related Fungi," inspired by the similarities in tone color between the members of the saxophone family, was composed for the ASQ. Just like the mushroom bunter must learn to differentiate between similar varieties, the listener should learn to differentiate the playing styles of the individual players. Golove effectively makes jumorous use of this analogy, with the quiet thinking, playing of the opening followed by the individual instruments gaining texture and intensity, interrupted by spoken passages taken from what seems to be a text on mycology. The individual instruments keep on trying to assert themselves, with alto Russ Carere spinning out some nice jazz riffs, before the abrupt end.

"Enchainment," written by UB's Robert Mols for the ASQ, received its 20th anniversary performance. The title refers to Mols wanting to compose a piece that was at once lyric, jazzy and expressive in sections, chained together in one movement. The members of the quartet did a good job of integrating the different elements, moving seamlessly in a flittering transition from the jazzy initial section through a slow, dreamy section. Harry Fackelman played a soulful baritone passage over high, held notes, in the expressive middle section. The players deftly alternated between very rapid scherzo-like passages, and cream-sounding unison passages to end the piece.

Michael Sahl's "Saxophone Quartet" was also composed for the ASQ. The musicians gave a well-balanced performance of this melodic piece, achieving a very foull sound that featured beautiful extended solos by Fancher.

Fredonia Professor Walter Hartley's "Suite for Saxophone Quartet," the most conventionally written piece on the program, had a few twists. The Prelude turned out to be slower than expected, but it was played with a nice, slightly lost quality. The Nocturne, on the other hand, was initially faster than expected, while the musicians jumpstarted the perpetual motion finale to bring the work to its close.

Hometown sounds