Commissioned by five saxophone quartets and featured on the album Fire In Heaven And Earth: Music Of Theodore Wiprud.


for saxophone quartet (satb) / 28 min.
in three movements
I. Assertive / II. Punchy; Gentle swing time / III. Brisk

Buy Score & Parts »

Program Note

For some time I considered writing for saxophone quartet because it is the only wind group really comparable to the string quartet in homogeneity and expressive range; to me, it is the American answer to the string quartet. This, my first work for the saxophone quartet, was commissioned by five outstanding institutions—PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Amherst Saxophone Quartet, Resounding Winds, Western Illinois University, and Adolphe Saxquartette—along with the New York series, Music at the Anthology. The first performance took place at the Anthology Film Archives, where PRISM played the first two movements. The first complete performances, incorporating substantial revisions of the first movement, were given in Buffalo by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet.

Since each of the five groups commissioning the piece has a rather distinct repertory and audience, my challenge was to write a work that would stand up anywhere: music with plenty of character, but with plenty of room too for interpretation, for each group to apply its own ideas. My approach, the classical approach, is to structure simple materials into a clear, logical, and compelling form. Among other things, my Saxophone Quartet emerged as a study of the whole step, the most basic melodic interval, which in different contexts can mean many different things. The whole step is the opening gesture of the first movement, marked “Assertive;” it is prominent in all of that movement’s melodic material, which ranges from stern motivic cells to gleeful dances to monumental chorales. The second movement is a scherzo with driving 5/4 outer sections. The inner section, which actually constitutes the work’s slow movement, is a ballad with recurring whole-step motion, inspired by several of John Coltrane’s compositions. In the repeat of the fast scherzo, the players encounter the opportunity to improvise over the ostinato bass line. The final movement picks up exactly where the first movement left off, developing the first movement’s coda into a whirlwind of runs, punctuated by another whole-step melody and by brisk, rising chorales.

—Theodore Wiprud

Reviews from Performers

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet has had as much fun performing subsequent concerts of Theodore Wiprud’s Saxophone Quartet as we did playing the complete premiere of this major new work. It is a work of substance, rewarding to perform, and warmly received by audiences. We recommend including it in what is becoming the standard repertory for saxophone quartet.”

—Stephen Rosenthal, Amherst Saxophone Quartet

Buy Score and Parts »
Learn More about the Album »