"Nuages" - Eugene Bozza

Eugene Bozza (1905-91) wrote an enormous amount of repertoire for woodwinds and brass instruments, including solos and chamber music. A number of his works became standards in the solo saxophone repertoire, such as his Aria, and Improvisation et Caprice. This week, I am sharing his saxophone quartet piece, Nuages (1946). Bozza's music exhibits some of the most typical traits of French music from the early and middle 20th century - light textures, viruosity, lyricism, playful qualities, and portrays the bright sunshine his childhood in southern France. Nuages incorporates many of these traits. When naming the piece, Bozza added a subtitle, scherzo, refering to the playful style. The complete title translates into "playful clouds." While this seems paradoxical, the music illustrates aspects of slow, graceful movement, and buzzy excitement. Bozza uses rhythmic layers to create this juxtaposition of fast and slow movement. The prominant fast-moving line (sextuplets) attracts the  listener's ear and gives the music great energy as it passes between the four saxophones. Listen to how the timbre (sound color) of each saxophonist matches with the others to seamlessly exchange the moving line around the group. As the listener and the musicians begin to feel bigger pulses (at the quarter note, half note, and whole note levels) the music takes on a slow-moving, floating quality, reminiscent of the French impressionist composers - Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.

I have linked Soma Quartet's recording of this work on YouTube. The musicians in the quartet are David Bayard (soprano), Paul Lorenz (alto), Sean Bradley (tenor), and Arthur Liang (baritone). All four study saxophone with Otis Murphy at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. They have placed at numerous regional and national chamber music competitions, including winning the Grand Prize at the Plowman Chamber Music Competition in 2019. Find out more about the saxophone quartet at their website.