Countless musicians have approached Bach’s work in various and often unconventional ways. One reason for that is probably the strong architectural component in Bach’s music that allows for a wide variety in performance. But most of all, the "patron" Bach wrote music for musicians and has given us this incredibly inspiring and fulfilling sphere. Sax Allemande
At this point, we would like to assure you that this very version for saxophones is an exact and complete reproduction of Bach’s music.
More than any other instrument, the saxophone has become a symbol and an icon of jazz. But apart from this cool and existentialist nimbus, the saxophone takes in a special role in the sphere of classical music. Its inventor and name giver, the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax, designed and created the instrument around 1840. His aim was to add a timbre to a traditional symphonic orchestra that was supposed to connect strings and the wind section, i.e. to mediate between the two groups. In his famous orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s piano concerto "Pictures at an Exhibition", Maurice Ravel shows what incomparably noble sounds this instrument can produce. He orchestrates the cantilena "The Old Castle" as a solo for alto saxophone. The French composers of the late 19th and early 20th century – Berlioz, d’Indy, Debussy, Ravel – were the first ones to grasp the possibilities of the new invention and used it for their creations. The traditionally woodwind-friendly milieu of the French music since impressionism proved to be fertile ground. Especially in Paris, an excellent school for classical saxophone was established. As musicians and pedagogues, its founder Marcel Mule and his successors at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique de Paris, Daniel Deffayet and Claude Delangle, have influenced generations of saxophonists, who spread that knowledge throughout the world.
Sax Allemande also follows this tradition. Arend Hastedt, Markus Maier, and Frank Schüssler founded the ensemble after graduating from universities in Munich, Basel, and Zurich. Their goal was to further develop the art of playing an instrument and the wonderful classical, concertante saxophone sound, and to add another facet to it.
This CD is already the second cooperation with FARAO classics. The year 2001 gave rise to a recording under the title "Sax At The Opera", which approaches famous works such as Mozart’s Don Giovanni or Bizet’s Carmen from a saxophonist point of view.
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As historian Will Durant once said, "nothing is new except arrangement." And while Durant was speaking about the moral ideas of Jesus, he might as well have been speaking of this highly unusual arrangement of Bach's Goldberg Variations for three, sometimes four, saxophones by the trio, sometimes quartet, ensemble Sax Allemande. Sure, it takes some getting used to -- after all, a blown brass saxophone ensemble is an entirely different musical beast than a plucked-string, two-manual harpsichord -- but once you make the adjustment, the effect is amazing. It's amazing because it's so beautiful, amazing because it's so musical, and most of all amazing because it's so impossibly but wonderfully appropriate. Part of the reason it's amazing is that the Sax Allemande is a subtle, sensitive, soulful ensemble with absolutely unbelievable individual and collective technique. No matter what Bach or the arrangement throws at them, the players knock it out of the park. And part of the reason it's amazing is that the music itself is seemingly indestructible. In a very real sense, it doesn't seem to matter what instrument or combination of instruments play the Goldberg -- harpsichord, piano, string trio, sax trio, whatever -- as long as it's played well, the piece holds up as one of the great monuments of Western music. While clearly not for everyone, anyone with an open mind and an open heart will surely enjoy this disc. From another room, FARAO classics' digital sound could easily be mistaken for the real thing.
Performance 4.5 Stars
Sound 5 Stars Allmusic.com, James Leonard, 29.12.06