Niels Bijl

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Four virtuosi in top form

Eindhoven, November 8th, 2008

It doesn’t often happen that a concert glues you to your seat from the first to the last note. The world famous Aurelia Saxophone Quartet succeeded in doing that in a program consisting of two seeming opposites. Before the interval they performed pieces from the nineteenth century on authentic instruments from the workshop of Adolphe Sax himself. Instruments with a velvety tone that the quartet demonstrated in gentle compositions by Berlioz and Rossini. They began, however, with the first ever work for saxophone, written in 1857 by Jean-Baptise Singeée: a romantic piece full of warm melodies. It was immediately clear just how well this quartet plays together, the whole sounded as if it was from one instrument.

In the second half they translated works from the last century on modern saxophones. Intense music full of passion and grief. Shostakovich wrote his seventh string quartet in 1960 in memory of his wife. It is a piece full of poignant concordances and breathtaking melodies, particularly in the Lento. Now, I am not always happy with arrangements, but the members of the Aurelia Quartet possess the ability to arrange in an unbelievably discerning way. That was most obvious in this dramatic work. Through it the four musicians brought the tenseness to life in a stirring manner. This also applied to the Twee Koralen by Klaas de Vries, in memory of Johnny Hodges, the renowned saxophonist in Duke Ellington’s band. Hodges’ self-destruction through drink and drugs is given form by De Vries in this fascinating composition. The Aurelia Saxophone Quartet performed this with much energy and drama.