Concerto for Saxophone Quartet - Philip Glass

Concerto for Saxophone Quartet (1995) – Philip Glass (b.1937)
SATB and orchestra
Version for saxophone quartet alone, 1995
Chester Music, published 2003

Philip Glass emerged on the New York music scene in the 1960s. At that time he identified with the fringe group of minimalists including Terry Riley, and Steve Reich. He founded the Philip Glass Ensemble to play music of thi genre, breaking traditions by using amplification and writing for instruments such as saxophone and electric guitar. In the following decades he has written a wide range of music including movie soundtracks, symphonies, and operas. This month, the Washington National Opera is producing the second run of his Appomattox. He remains one of the most performed living composers. Glass has held the saxophone in high regard for his entire career.

The RSQ premiered Philip Glass’ Concerto for Saxophone Quartet in 1995 with the Swedish Radio Orchestra Stockholm, conducted by Roy Goodman. Some characteristics from his early compositions are present in this work such as his use of additive process in developing motives. The piece is highly repetitive and has a constant rhythmic drive. Unlike his early works, this work has lyrical qualities. The first and third movement both have sing-able melodies and a relaxed tempo. The scherzo-like second movement has a funk inspired bass line. The fourth movement is full of meter changes and odd rhythmic groupings. Glass juxtaposes the rhythm between the upper and lower voices in complex syncopation.

This quartet is a favorite for audiences and performers. The piece is within the reach of most undergraduate quartets. Endurance is the largest challenge presented by the quartet in its standalone version.

Hear it:
Amstel Quartet, Amstel Peijl
Concert Artist Guild, 2008

h2 Quartet, Times and Spaces
Blue Griffin, USA, 2010

RSQ, Saxophone,
Orange Mountain Music, 2002 (quartet version)

RSQ with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dennis Russel Davies, Symphony No. 2
Nonesuch, USA, 1998 Saxophone Quartet, Philip Glass and Michael Nyman: Works for Saxophone Quartet
Genuin Records, Germany, 2011

Tetraphonics, The Invitation
Cybele Records, Germany, 2007

Arcis Saxophon Quartett with Hochschulsymphonicorchester Munchen conducted by Prof. Ulrich Nicolai

Bohemia Saxophone Quartet with Brno Philharmonic (Czech Symphony Orchestra) conducted by Aleksandar Markovic

h2 Quartet with the Michigan State University Orchestra, conducted by Beau Benson

Other works by Philip Glass for saxophone: Music for Play (1965) 2 soprano saxophones (Samuel Beckett play Comedie); 8 for John Gibson (1968) soprano saxophone; Gradus (1968) soprano saxophone; Facades (1981) two sop, string quartet The Windcatcher (1992) for six saxophones SSAATB; Melodies for Saxophone (1995) 13 melodies/movements and horn choice left to players discretion; Glass included sax in many pieces for larger ensembles including The Photographer, Passages, Glassworks, and Einstein on the Beach