Steve Cohen- Saxophone Quartet No. 2

I began making sketches for my Saxophone Quartet #2 in the early 1980s, but work and life proved very distracting, and I was not able to devote the time to complete it until 1998. The first 2 movements were played April 20, 1998 at Manhattan School of Music in a recital by the Saxophone Department under the direction of Dr. Paul Cohen, and a complete performance by the same forces took place on November 30.

Buoyed by the enthusiastic response to my Saxophone Quartet #1, I was inspired to write a second piece in the same medium, slightly longer, in four movements rather than three, and with more emphasis on lyricism, while still finding room for the aggressive rhythms and jazz influences that appear in the first quartet.

Movement 1 is marked Andante moderato, centers around the key of G minor, with a secondary theme in E-flat, and seeks to create a flowing, pastoral atmosphere.

Movement 2, a scherzo marked Allegro agitato, grew out of my fascination with motor rhythms, and the instrumental means by which one can break up a phrase or a pattern to create the illusion that the players do not need to breathe. The piece starts with a nervous, agitated pattern built on the interval of a minor second, which as it is developed takes on jazzy overtones, as well as sounding comically grotesque at times. (One section in particular never fails to remind me of bicycle horns) After much of this sort of writing, a long lyrical line appears played first by the soprano and then picked up by the tenor. The other two voices are brought in this new sensibility, converted if you will, and the music takes on a fervent hymn-like quality. As the hymn approaches an affirmative cadence the baritone introduces the minor second motif again, plunging the group back into the chaos of the beginning.

Movement 3, Adagio, centers around D-flat and seeks to create a mood of stillness and serenity, combining an old-world sense of yearning with aspects of the blues.

Movement 4, a jovial rondo marked Allegro giocoso, begins with a theme mildly reminiscent of a Renaissance dance, and introduces a number of other themes, some very syncopated, others more smooth and cantabile. In response to Elgar's Enigma Variations I have included a disguised allusion to what is for me a highly significant melody, and I wish all my listeners a good time discovering its identity, or enjoying the piece nevertheless.

Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen received his training at the Eastman, Juilliard and Manhattan Schools of Music, and has composed a large catalog of symphonic, chamber and musical-theater pieces, including the operas The Cop and the Anthem (libretto by Alison Hubbard after the O. Henry story) and La Pizza Del Destino (libretto by Joseph Renard). Mr. Cohen's Wind Quintet will appear on a CD of American Music by the Pennsylvania Wind Quintet on the Centaur label. As an arranger and orchestrator, Mr. Cohen has supplied scores for the New York Pops Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the American Ballet Theater, the Goldman Memorial Band, the world premiere of the musical Spittin' Image, and touring companies of Beauty And The Beast, Porgy and Bess, Crazy For You, Guys and Dolls and The Secret Garden. A new series of Christmas carols arranged for solo voice and orchestra has been commissioned and published by Edwin F. Kalmus and Co. Mr. Cohen completed Kevin Oldham's Concerto for Piano from the composer's sketches, a piece now available on the BMG/Catalyst CD "Memento Bittersweet."


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