Quintet after Schumann (Quintette nach Schumann)

for Saxophone Quartet and Piano

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  • Commissioned by/written for
    Oasis Quartet
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  • Year revised
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Quintette nach Schumann was commissioned by the Oasis Quartet in its desire to have me contribute another work in my series of "After" pieces, works written in the style of older composers who never wrote for certain instruments, such as the saxophone. At the time of its commission, the quartet consisted of soprano saxophonist, Nathan Nabb, alto saxophonist, James Bunte, tenor saxophonist, Dave Camwell, and baritone saxophonist, James Romain. The quintet was begun on February 23, 2013 and completed on April 25th of that same year, but only about a month was devoted to the actual composition, as other non-compositional projects required my attention during the interim: music composition comprises only a small portion of my activities. In this work, I attempted to capture the melodic patterns, harmonic movement, and textures of Robert Schumann, who probably didn't even know that the saxophone had been invented. Despite that, and even more than in myTrio after Brahms, I left some of my own distinct musical fingerprints in the work. There are a number of places that sound more like me writing in a romantic style than they do the style of the German master. There are also some places that sound more like Brahms than Schumann, but I simply liked these too much to try to rewrite them to mold them into Schumann's style. Sometimes a composer must let a piece take its course. Unique in my entire output is a movement in the 19th-century theme and variations style, a form that has never been of much appeal to me. Since Schumann used the form (in works such as his Abegg Variations and Carnaval), I felt that it would be a challenge to write in this form. To my surprise, the movement came very quickly and convincingly to me, much more than the third movement, which gave me considerable trouble. The four movements therefore consist of a declamatory first movement, the longest of the quintet, and cast in a modified sonata allegro form, the scherzo-like theme and variations second movement, a slow and rather simple third movement, and a driving finale with a tempo marking that translates as "almost faster than possible." The latter was brought to my mind by the tempo marking in one of Schumann's piano sonatas, "as fast as possible," followed by a mind-boggling subsequent marking of "piú mosso" (a paradox resolved by the fact that the music becomes easier at that point). As is typical in 19th-century chamber music, the piano is given the lion's share of the notes, although I made an effort to give each of the four saxophonists a challenging and rewarding part as well.

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