Memorias in 6 TABLEAUX
PERSONAL NOTES by clair-obscur – Saxophone Quartet
Memorias is clair-obscur’s birthday present for Astor Piazzolla, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in 2021. A manera de memorias is the title of Argentinean author Natalio Gorín’s anthology of interviews with Astor Piazzolla from the 1990s.
That book gave us the idea to record this album, which provides the listener with comprehensive insights into Piazzolla’s musical environment. For the
album Memorias, clair-obscur has taken Piazzolla’s six most important musical models and placed their works alongside his own in six musical tableaux.
The connections can be easy to spot; at other times, they are more subtle. Invariably, however, a novel, unexpected musical context allows us to hear Piazzolla’s music in a different way, with a fresh approach. Each of these musical tableaux is introduced by an original interview quote from the book A manera de memorias.
Memorias is clair-obscur’s birthday present to itself. This is the tenth album that clair-obscur has recorded in its current line-up, and we release it on the occasion of the quartet’s 20th birthday in the year 2021.
Many of the pieces on this recording have long been part of clair-obscur’s core repertoire. Memorias is a musical retrospect of 20 years of making music together. (excerpt from the Booklet’s liner notes)
Jan Schulte-Bunert soprano saxophone · Maike Krullmann alto saxophone Christoph Enzel tenor saxophone · Kathi Wagner baritone saxophone For many years, the clair-obscur saxophone quartet has been one of the most renowned ensembles of its kind, as proven by its appearances at Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, Lucerne Festival, and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.
The top-notch musicianship of its individual members, who teach at several music universities and who regularly team up to form the Berliner Philharmoniker saxophone section, is heightened even more when they play together.
Clair-obscur was the first saxophone quartet to have been admitted to the chamber music exam at the Hanns Eisler University of Music in Berlin, where they were trained by Prof. Friedemann Weigle (Artemis Quartet). Weigle blended the four entirely different characters into a unity, giving them the courage to think independently – the ability to “rock n’ roll”, as he put it. The quartet went on to win a series of national and international competitions.
Clair-obscur’s outstanding quality, flexibility, and stylistic assurance enable the quartet to tackle every kind of music style “without blinders” at top performance level. The ensemble knows no taboos, playing what pleases them the most and thereby continually proving that audiences can be won over by any kind of music, provided it is well-played and well-presented.
It also has to sound good: clair-obscur writes ideal arrangements for itself (which are now being taken up by other ensembles), and they help the audience forget that all they have in front of them is “just a simple quartet”.
Thanks to clair-obscur’s unique sound, their congenially precise phrasing after twenty uninterrupted years of ensemble collaboration, and their laid-back, joyfully humorous stage presence, each of their recitals is transformed into an unforgettable experience.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
George Gershwin was an American composer, who is mostly known due to his combinations of classical and popular music genres.
George Gershwin grew up in a poor neighbourhood in New York. His parents were Russian immigrants who had trouble making ends meet. They did, however, decide to purchase an old piano so Ira Gershwin could study to become a musician. Yet, it turned out not Ira, but his younger brother George showed remarkable talent. Ira applied himself to writing song lyrics and together the Gershwin brothers became absolute greats in the world of 20th century musicals. Nowadays, George's compositions are still relevant, as is evidenced by the many performances of his Rhapsody in Blue from 1924. But the best example is the ageless Summtertime, which has been covered a countless number of times by a countless number of artists.