Listen to Zzyzx Road
Thierry Escaich is both a well known international organist specializing in classical improvisation and a prolific composer having had his music performed throughout the world. Escaich has composed for almost every conceivable genre from instrumental solos and chamber music to ballet and film scores. Tango Virtuoso was written in 1992 for Jean-Pierre Baraglioli and the Quatuor Gabriel Pierné and has since been transcribed for clarinet quartet by Florent Héau. Many of his works for saxophone have been dedicated to Baraglioli, who is currently the soprano saxophonist in the International Saxophone Quartet. While the work is quite short and the title accurately describes the difficulty of the piece, there are many moments of more subtle interaction between the four voices. Some of his other works for saxophone include the soprano saxophone concerto Le Chant des Ténèbres and Lutte for solo saxophone written for Claude Delangle, Professor of Saxophone at the Paris Conservatory.
Ida Gotkovsky’s Quatuor has become a staple of the saxophone quartet repertoire since its publication in 1988. At nearly 30 minutes long, the five movement work is almost symphonic in its scope. The first four movements each open and close with quiet, contemplative moments that serve to contrast the intensity of the final movement. The fourth movement of this work is recorded here as a quintet with Dr. Otis Murphy, professor of saxophone at Indiana University, performing the alto saxophone solo. Although rarely recorded or performed in this configuration, the quintet version adds depth and complexity to the harmonic background. In addition to the Quatuor, Gotkovsky is a well respected composer of solo, chamber and orchestral works. As a young composer, she studied at the Paris Conservatory with Olivier Messiaen and Nadia Boulanger before winning numerous awards throughout Europe including the prix de SACEM and the premiere prix du referedum Pasdeloup. Her works have been recorded numerous times by leading artists and ensembles across the world.
KLONOS was originally composed in 1992 for saxophone and piano and soon took off as a showpiece for saxophonists worldwide. After numerous requests to arrange a version for saxophone quartet, Piet Swerts published this new arrangement in 2008. This world premiere recording captures the intense energy and tight ensemble playing that made the solo version so successful. While he studied composition for a short time, Swerts is largely self-taught as a composer and as a result has developed a very clear and distinct musical voice. He has garnered acclaim throughout his career, winning several awards including the SABAM prize and the Camille Huysmans Composition Prize.
They Might Be Gods by John Leszczynski was commissioned by Zzyzx in 2009. About the composition, the composer writes “Like with most of my pieces, They Might Be Gods was not conceived of programmatically, although it sounds like it was. In the summer of 2009 when I was working on the quartet, I was having a hard time writing any serious music that I liked. Eventually, I decided to have fun with this piece and make something that was exciting, sarcastic and a bit profane.” Leszczynski has won numerous awards for his compositions and saxophone performance including Indiana University’s 2008 Dens Prize for Composition and the 2009 Lima Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition.
Erik Norman’s Suite for saxophone quartet was composed in 2007 and dedicated to Zzyzx. Norman is a long-time friend of Zzyxz’s baritone saxophonist, Dana Booher. Both grew up in California and attended the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where in 2002, Erik was awarded a full-tuition composition prize as an incoming undergraduate. The Suite uses close harmonic relationships to create tension and a sense of motion throughout the work. Perhaps as a result of the friendship between Norman and Booher, the baritone saxophone features quite prominently as a melodic voice in the Suite.