American Composers Orchestra

about the concert

Sunday, January 11, 1998 at 3 PM at Carnegie Hall

Raschèr Saxophone Quartet Premieres New Works by Augusta Read Thomas and Philip Glass

Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
Raschèr Saxophone Quartet

Roger Sessions: Symphony No. 1
The ground breaking and rhapsodic work of America's supreme symphonist.

Augusta Read Thomas: Brass Axis (World Premiere, ACO Commission)
An urgent, seductive, compelling and often raucous new concerto for saxophone quartet and orchestra.

Hale Smith: Ritual and Incantations
Mystery permeates music of overlapping rhythms, roaring brass and ecstatic percussion. From a composer equally at home in a jazz band as a symphony orchestra.

Philip Glass: Concerto for Saxophone Quartet (New York Premiere)
An outrageously virtuosic modern-day divertimento.

 

Pre-Concert Discussion with composers Augusta Read Thomas, Hale Smith and ACO Artistic Advisor Robert Beaser at 1:45 pm. Free to all ticket holders.

Tickets: $40, $35, $20, $13 and $9.

For Tickets Call CarnegieCharge: 212-247-7800

8am-8pm 7 days a week. Or visit the Box Office: Mon.-Sat. 11am-6pm, Sun. noon-6pm.Pre-Concert talk with the composers at 1:45pm


The Raschèr Saxophone Quartet will be featured in the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’s Brass Axis and the New York Premiere of Philip Glass’s Concerto for Saxophone Quartet at the American Composers Orchestra’s January 11, 1998 performance in Carnegie Hall at 3pm. Also on the program are the First Symphony of Roger Sessions and Ritual and Incantations by Hale Smith. ACO Music Director Dennis Russell Davies will conduct. Tickets are available by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800.

The saxophone quartet is not exactly a staple of the concerto repertoire, but that is something that the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet is working hard to change. “The richly varied character of their four voices has been inspiring new compositions left, right, and centre...,” according to The London Times. Composers who have been inspired to write for the group include Luciano Berio, Steven Stucky, Tristan Keuris, Richard Wernick, and Iannis Xenakis. Along the way, the Raschèr has performed at many of the world’s top concert halls such as the Bastille Opera House, Royal Festival Hall in London, The Tonhalle in Zurich, as well as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. They have collaborated with the Gewandhaus Leipzig Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Dresdner Staatskapelle, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, among others.

The Raschèr Quartet was founded in 1969 by the pioneering classical saxophonist Sigurd Raschèr. Raschèr took Europe by storm in the 1930s playing new works written for him, such as Alexander Glazunov’s concerto, as well as transcriptions of Bach. Raschèr’s sweet-toned sound and virtuosic technique were revolutionary for an instrument which had been developed specifically for military bands, and had only just begun to make inroads in the burgeoning world of jazz. The saxophone quartet, with its matched timbres, and ability to project complicated counterpoint was a natural extension of Raschèr’s work. Today the Raschèr Quartet is made up of Carina Raschèr (daughter of the founder), Harry White, Bruce Weinberger and Kenneth Coon.

The Raschèr Quartet will take the wraps off Augusta Read Thomas’s Brass Axis, commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra. The composer has described the new piece as “urgent and seductive, with compelling qualities of sometimes complex, but always logical thought, allied to sensuous and engaging sonic profiles.”

Ms. Thomas is among one of the brightest young stars of American composers. This summer she began a three-year stint as Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony, which will premiere her Orbital Beacons during its 1998-99 season. Other recent works include Chanson for Cello and Orchestra written for Mstislav Rostropovich and the Boston Symphony, Air and Angels written for the National Symphony, and Wind Dance premiered by the New York Philharmonic. Ms. Thomas’s opera Ligeia, conducted by Rostropovich in Spoleto, Italy won the International Orpheus Prize. Her many other honors include awards from ASCAP, BMI, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and commissions from the Naumburg Foundation, Fromm Music Foundation, and the Barlow Endowment. Ms. Thomas is married to composer Bernard Rands, and is on the faculty at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Philip Glass’s Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra was commissioned by the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival for the Raschèr Quartet and was premiered in Stockholm in 1995. Repeat performances around Europe have been “received with an enthusiasm seldom seen in modern music,” according to Neue Musikzeitung, which goes on to describe the work as a “classical Divertimento...boisterous, almost jazzy, with its trilling tonal decor.” The ACO performance marks the work’s New York premiere. Interestingly, it was ACO’s world premiere performance of Glass’s Violin Concerto ten years ago that marked the renowned composer’s first forays into the concerto repertoire.

Continuing its survey of what music director Dennis Russell Davies calls “arguably America’s supreme symphonist,” ACO will open Sunday’s concert with the Symphony No. 1 by Roger Sessions. The work was written while Sessions was a young man studying in Italy in the 1920’s, but already shows the tight-craft and rhapsodic lines that characterize the composer’s subsequent works for orchestra.

Ritual and Incantations by Hale Smith completes the program. Smith began his musical career as a jazz composer and arranger, working with some of the most innovative musicians of the post-bebop period, including Eric Dolphy, Abby Lincoln, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Clark Terry, Oliver Nelson and Hugh Masekala. Smith pioneered the use of twelve-tone techniques with jazz influences in complex, but not necessarily obvious, ways. “I am a Black composer who has extensive experience in jazz and non-jazz areas.continues... When I write of these experiences, my way of sensing rhythm, pitch relationships, formal balances, and so on, are influenced by my background. The fact that a lot of my music would come off much better if it were played by performers with jazz backgrounds doesn’t mean that I’m writing jazz.” Ritual and Incantations was written in 1974 and premiered by the Houston Symphony. The composer calls it “a piece that evokes an atmosphere of mystery...the percussion section figures throughout the piece. In one major section, I set up a pattern of rhythmic overlays that derive, ultimately, from West African drumming practices.”

The American Composers Orchestra is the nation’s only orchestra dedicated exclusively to performing symphonic works by American composers. Through its concert series at Carnegie Hall, recordings, radio broadcasts, educational programs, new music reading sessions, and commissions, the ACO identifies today’s brightest emerging composers, champions this country’s prominent established composers as well as those lesser-known, and increases regional and national awareness of the infinite varieties—stylistic, geographic and ethnic—of American orchestral music. Since its founding in 1977, the Orchestra has programmed 400 works by 343 American composers, including 108 world premieres and 87 commissions, generating more new American symphonic works than any other orchestra. Recordings by ACO are available on ARGO, CRI, Point, MusicMasters, and New World Records.

Major support of the American Composers Orchestra is from Alliance Capital Management L.P., AT&T Foundation, Mr. Thomas Buckner, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, The Booth Ferris Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mr. Francis Goelet, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, J.P. Morgan & Co., and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund. This concert is also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional funding comes from Meet the Composer, Inc., with support from ASCAP, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, JP Morgan & Co, and the Virgil Thompson Foundation.

Tickets for ACO’s Sunday, January 11, 1998 concert at Carnegie Hall are $40, $35, $20, $13 and $9, and are available through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. The concert begins at 3pm. A pre-concert talk with composers Augusta Read Thomas, Hale Smith and ACO’s Artistic Advisor, Robert Beaser, is free to ticket holders and begins at 1:45pm.

 

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