A concert by the Ferio Saxophone Quartet

I went to a concert by the Ferio Saxophone Quartet in St Paul’s church in Clapham last week and was much taken by their playing. http://www.feriosax.co.uk/home#home  The quartet comprises young musicians who met at the Royal College of Music, and I thought that they played beautifully as a quartet. I’m fond of the saxophone, but the four saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone) often struggle to fit as comfortably together as the two violins, viola, and cello of a string quartet. And I thought the sound in the church marvellous.

The pieces specifically composed for a saxophone quartet were I thought the weakest—perhaps because the very best composers didn’t compose for the saxophone, not least because it didn’t exist when many of them were alive.

Ferio started with a version of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, which they had arranged themselves. It worked splendidly. Bach seems to be like Shakespeare in that you can do anything to his creations and they still work.

I liked too their arrangement of Michael Nyman’s String Quartet Number 2 in which the minor variations worked well as they bounced around the saxophones. Their arrangement of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, the saddest piece of music ever written, I thought less successful. It needs the sweet melancholy of strings.

The second half began with their arrangement of Arvo Part’s Fratres, which was meditative and worked well. The music that was perhaps the most successful and original was Guillermo Lago’s  Ciudades, pieces inspired by cities. They played Tokyo, Sarajevo, and Addis Abba. Tokyo reflected that you can encounter something different round every corner, and Addis Abba was strongly African. The best was Sarajevo, which caught the tragedy of the city. The quartet has worked directly with Lago (of whom I’d never heard), and the richness of the partnership shone though.

I’ll go again to listen to the quartet if I get the chance.

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