Saxophone Quartet - Charles Wuorinen

Saxophone Quartet (1992) – Charles Wuorinen (b. 1938)
C.F. Peters, published 1997

Charles Wuorinen showed musical prowess at an early age. He studied composition at Columbia and won the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1970. He cites inspiration from Schoenberg’s pitch organization and the timbral, rhythmic, and formal procedures of Stravinsky. Wuorinen’s catalogue stretches across a wide-variety of stage works, most recently premiering an operatic adaptation of Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx. His music is renowned for its chromatic language and dramatism.

Wuorinen explores contrasts in his Saxophone Quartet aided in part by the use of motifs and juxtaposition of sections in the style of Stravinsky. He also incorporates polyrhythm, mixed meter, metric modulation, to create contrasts of rhythmic order and chaos. The quartet creates a wide variety of harmonic colors. Wuorinen hints at several different styles throughout the piece including a blues, a scherzo, and an ending bebop-inspired section. The virtuosity of the piece is unwavering in its chromaticism, rhythmic complexity, and use of the altissimo.

Hear it:
RSQ, America
BIS, 1998

His other saxophone works: Divertimento for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1982); Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra (1993)