The special project on Arvo Pärt was a significant milestone in the group's artistic journey since 2015, the year of Arvo Pärt's 80th birthday. From 2015 the Alea Saxophone Quartet performed the Estonian composer's complete works for saxophone quartet at several concerts in Italy. Six of eight of these compositions were world premiered at the 70th edition of the Sagra Musicale Umbra.
It contains the Arvo Pärt complete compositions for saxophone quartet and three transcriptions of other Arvo Pärt scores, written by Gianpaolo Antongirolami.
Saxophones and spirituality: a challenge?
A distinctive feature of Arvo Pärt's work is that it lends itself to different interpretations, both vocally and instrumentally, adding new expressive layers while maintaining the original characteristics. In each of the numerous versions of his compositions, the spiritual purity inherent in Pärt's poetry is always at the forefront.
For this reason, I felt very enthusiastic at the prospect of playing such profound and significant music on the saxophone, an instrument that is still too often associated with lighter musical genres such as jazz and pop or with merely superficial sounds and cacophony.
Pärt himself paved the way, writing his versions of Summa
(1977/2009) and Da pacem Domine
(2004/2009) for the saxophone. In 2015, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, I learned that Arvo PĂ¤rt was himself busy composing new versions for the saxophone quartet. Thus, I was motivated to pursue an idea I'd had for a long time: that of re-arranging some of his works that I found particularly inspirational. I was most gratified when Arvo PĂ¤rt himself enthusiastically approved my transcriptions of Magnificat
(1989), My Heart's in the Highlands
(2000) and Psalom
(1985). At the same time, his own versions of Fratres
(1977/2015), Pari intervallo
(1976/2015) and Solfeggio
(1963/2015) for saxophone quartet were being published.
At this point I had the idea of bringing together all Pärt's works for saxophone quartet in one CD. The CD would include his most recent versions, the two that he had made previously, as well as my three arrangements.
The project presented me with a dual challenge: since both the transcription and execution had to come through clearly in the music, the lines of the four instruments needed to be carefully written, maintaining the right intervals, while interlacing and balancing the voices. In the execution, however, my research as focused on the timbre and dynamics. I wanted to obtain a sound that highlighted the purity and spirituality of each composition. Using this approach, I believe PĂ¤rt's music expresses the most intimate and sensitive side of the saxophone's sound, which remains undervalued, even today.
Yet as long ago as in the 1840s, Berlioz, was already able to capture the subtlety of expression of the saxophone, calling it "this admirable instrument", of "rare and precious qualities": "Its main merit lies in the beauty of its accent [...], like the mysterious vibrations of a bell after being struck. To me, no other existing musical instrument possesses this sound, at the limit of silence [...] the most beautiful voice in music that we know of."