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Notes by John Schaefer

Almost by accident, Echoes represents five centuries of music. The idea animating the project was, according to SIGNUM’s alto player Hayrapet Arakelyan, “not to present 500 years of music, but to find music that reflects, that echoes, the time we’re living in.” This is an album that offers recurring themes of sadness and hope, birth and death, loneliness and community. It is also an album that looks back to an unlikely source of inspiration: “I loved Pink Floyd,” says tenor saxophonist Alan Lužar, “where you can listen to a whole recording and it tells a story. This was a goal of ours.”

 

The story of Echoes is one of emotional connection, across both space and time. The opening four notes of John Dowland’s “Lachrimae Antiquae” from 1596 represents a tear falling – an image from an Elizabethan Era composer that still resonates in this Second Elizabethan Era (or any other). As if to prove the point, the album closes with a deeply melancholy work by Guillermo Lago (the nom de musique of sax player and composer Willem van Merwijk) that memorializes those killed during the Bosnian War of 1992-96. “Ciudades: Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)” is the only composition on the album originally written for saxophones. Nevertheless, the inspiration for the piece’s haunting opening was a different wind instrument: the Armenian reed known as duduk, beautifully evoked by Arakelyan’s alto saxophone. It is, Arakelyan says, not a piece about either Bosnia or Armenia specifically, but about the tragedy of war.

 

In between those two works, the music offers some literal echoes as well as metaphorical ones. Max Richter’s “On The Nature Of Daylight” grows continuously over the course of its six minutes, but the poignant opening chords echo underneath the whole work. Philip Glass’s “1957: Award Montage,” from his String Quartet #3, contains that composer’s trademark repeating patterns, and is also, in a sense, an echo of an echo: his String Quartet #3 is derived from music Glass had previously written for the film Mishima. And Peter Gregson’s “4.2 Allemande” looks back to the Baroque period, since the original version is from the Deutsche Grammophon recording Recomposed by Peter Gregson: Bach – The Cello Suites.

Because of the nature of the story they are telling in Echoes, the members of SIGNUM did not feel this was the place for explosive, obviously virtuosic performances. But there is a different, quieter sort of virtuosity on display here: in the circular breathing that enables the saxophones to negotiate Philip Glass’s unbroken rhythmic passages; in the beautifully meshed chords that allow four monophonic instruments to suggest the grandeur of Albinoni’s famous “Adagio in G Minor”; and in the seamless way the instruments pass the steady tread of Joep Beving’s “Ab Ovo” from one to another.

 

The Beving arrangement is one of three on the album by composer Max Knoth, who is best known for his film scores. His arrangement of the “Pie Jesu” section of Faure’s Requiem is another example of how SIGNUM tailored the performances to the overall mood. Their choice of soprano Grace Davidson reflects the desire to have a voice that was intimate and comforting, rather than dramatic. Instead of storming heaven, or filling a grand opera house, Davidson sounds like she could just as easily be singing John Dowland. (Which she has actually done.) A different sort of “singing” comes from cellist Hila Karni. After blending almost imperceptibly with the saxophone quartet on “The Nature Of Daylight,” Karni returns later in Paul Hindemith’s “Choral” from his Trauermusik (“Music of Grief”) to play a heartfelt lament over the quartet’s hymn-like chords.
Just as human emotions don’t change over time, the music on Echoes suggests that the human condition does not either. People are born (“Ab Ovo”), they die (“Pie Jesu”), and make war (“Sarajevo”). They also learn that, as a pop song from the 1970s famously put it, “love hurts,” a sentiment that John Dowland put into music (and words, in “Flow My Tears,” the vocal version of “Lachrimae Antiquae”), and which is echoed in the pensive “Then Time Stopped,” from Songs Of Love by Latvian composer Peteris Vasks.

 

It is important to say that members of SIGNUM did not set out to make a sad album, or a slow one. Echoes is meant to be hopeful, a reminder of our shared humanity, and a collection full of life and motion. Their Albinoni arrangement is purposefully done at a faster pace than normal, and even Guillermo Lago’s portrait of war-torn Sarajevo fades away with a soft perpetuo moto passage. The quartet was eager to present a program of music that, on record or in concert, could reflect our time – and in so doing, become timeless.

NEW ALBUM ON DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON

ECHOES

BUY ECHOES IN OUR SHOP

FOR EVERY COPY SOLD, 5 EUROS WILL GO TOWARDS

DEUTSCHE ORCHESTERSTIFTUNG.

EVERY CD WILL BE SIGNED BY ALL FOUR OF US.

TRACKLIST

01 John Dowland (1563-1626): Lachrimae Antiquae

arr. by Knoth

 

*02 Max Richter (1966): On The Nature Of Daylight
transcr. for saxophone quartet and cello by SIGNUM

 

03 Philip Glass (1937): String Quartet No. 3 “Mishima”: 1. 1957 “Award Montage”
arr. for saxophone quartet by SIGNUM

 

**04 Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): Requiem: Pie Jesu
arr. by Knoth

 

05 Peter Gregson (1987): 4.2 Allemande
arr. for saxophone quartet by Gregson

 

06 Joep Beving (1976): Ab Ovo
Arr. by Knoth

 

07 Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751): Adagio in g minor
arr. for saxophone quartet by SIGNUM

 

*08 Paul Hindemith (1895-1963): Trauermusik: Choral
arr. for saxophone quartet and cello by SIGNUM

 

09 Pēteris Vasks (1946): Songs of Love: 4. Then Time Stopped

saxophone quartet version by SIGNUM

 

10 Guillermo Lago (1960): Ciudades: Sarajevo (Bosnia And Herzegovina)

with
* Hila Karni, Cello
** Grace Davidson, Soprano

NEW ALBUM ON DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON

ECHOES

BUY ECHOES IN OUR SHOP

FOR EVERY COPY SOLD, 5 EUROS WILL GO TOWARDS

DEUTSCHE ORCHESTERSTIFTUNG.

EVERY CD WILL BE SIGNED BY ALL FOUR OF US.

TRACKLIST

01 John Dowland (1563-1626): Lachrimae Antiquae

arr. by Knoth

 

*02 Max Richter (1966): On The Nature Of Daylight
transcr. for saxophone quartet and cello by SIGNUM

 

03 Philip Glass (1937): String Quartet No. 3 “Mishima”: 1. 1957 “Award Montage”
arr. for saxophone quartet by SIGNUM

 

**04 Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): Requiem: Pie Jesu
arr. by Knoth

 

05 Peter Gregson (1987): 4.2 Allemande
arr. for saxophone quartet by Gregson

 

06 Joep Beving (1976): Ab Ovo
Arr. by Knoth

 

07 Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751): Adagio in g minor
arr. for saxophone quartet by SIGNUM

 

*08 Paul Hindemith (1895-1963): Trauermusik: Choral
arr. for saxophone quartet and cello by SIGNUM

 

09 Pēteris Vasks (1946): Songs of Love: 4. Then Time Stopped

saxophone quartet version by SIGNUM

 

10 Guillermo Lago (1960): Ciudades: Sarajevo (Bosnia And Herzegovina)

with
* Hila Karni, Cello
** Grace Davidson, Soprano

Notes by John Schaefer

Almost by accident, Echoes represents five centuries of music. The idea animating the project was, according to SIGNUM’s alto player Hayrapet Arakelyan, “not to present 500 years of music, but to find music that reflects, that echoes, the time we’re living in.” This is an album that offers recurring themes of sadness and hope, birth and death, loneliness and community. It is also an album that looks back to an unlikely source of inspiration: “I loved Pink Floyd,” says tenor saxophonist Alan Lužar, “where you can listen to a whole recording and it tells a story. This was a goal of ours.”

 

The story of Echoes is one of emotional connection, across both space and time. The opening four notes of John Dowland’s “Lachrimae Antiquae” from 1596 represents a tear falling – an image from an Elizabethan Era composer that still resonates in this Second Elizabethan Era (or any other). As if to prove the point, the album closes with a deeply melancholy work by Guillermo Lago (the nom de musique of sax player and composer Willem van Merwijk) that memorializes those killed during the Bosnian War of 1992-96. “Ciudades: Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)” is the only composition on the album originally written for saxophones. Nevertheless, the inspiration for the piece’s haunting opening was a different wind instrument: the Armenian reed known as duduk, beautifully evoked by Arakelyan’s alto saxophone. It is, Arakelyan says, not a piece about either Bosnia or Armenia specifically, but about the tragedy of war.

 

In between those two works, the music offers some literal echoes as well as metaphorical ones. Max Richter’s “On The Nature Of Daylight” grows continuously over the course of its six minutes, but the poignant opening chords echo underneath the whole work. Philip Glass’s “1957: Award Montage,” from his String Quartet #3, contains that composer’s trademark repeating patterns, and is also, in a sense, an echo of an echo: his String Quartet #3 is derived from music Glass had previously written for the film Mishima. And Peter Gregson’s “4.2 Allemande” looks back to the Baroque period, since the original version is from the Deutsche Grammophon recording Recomposed by Peter Gregson: Bach – The Cello Suites.

Because of the nature of the story they are telling in Echoes, the members of SIGNUM did not feel this was the place for explosive, obviously virtuosic performances. But there is a different, quieter sort of virtuosity on display here: in the circular breathing that enables the saxophones to negotiate Philip Glass’s unbroken rhythmic passages; in the beautifully meshed chords that allow four monophonic instruments to suggest the grandeur of Albinoni’s famous “Adagio in G Minor”; and in the seamless way the instruments pass the steady tread of Joep Beving’s “Ab Ovo” from one to another.

 

The Beving arrangement is one of three on the album by composer Max Knoth, who is best known for his film scores. His arrangement of the “Pie Jesu” section of Faure’s Requiem is another example of how SIGNUM tailored the performances to the overall mood. Their choice of soprano Grace Davidson reflects the desire to have a voice that was intimate and comforting, rather than dramatic. Instead of storming heaven, or filling a grand opera house, Davidson sounds like she could just as easily be singing John Dowland. (Which she has actually done.) A different sort of “singing” comes from cellist Hila Karni. After blending almost imperceptibly with the saxophone quartet on “The Nature Of Daylight,” Karni returns later in Paul Hindemith’s “Choral” from his Trauermusik (“Music of Grief”) to play a heartfelt lament over the quartet’s hymn-like chords.
Just as human emotions don’t change over time, the music on Echoes suggests that the human condition does not either. People are born (“Ab Ovo”), they die (“Pie Jesu”), and make war (“Sarajevo”). They also learn that, as a pop song from the 1970s famously put it, “love hurts,” a sentiment that John Dowland put into music (and words, in “Flow My Tears,” the vocal version of “Lachrimae Antiquae”), and which is echoed in the pensive “Then Time Stopped,” from Songs Of Love by Latvian composer Peteris Vasks.

 

It is important to say that members of SIGNUM did not set out to make a sad album, or a slow one. Echoes is meant to be hopeful, a reminder of our shared humanity, and a collection full of life and motion. Their Albinoni arrangement is purposefully done at a faster pace than normal, and even Guillermo Lago’s portrait of war-torn Sarajevo fades away with a soft perpetuo moto passage. The quartet was eager to present a program of music that, on record or in concert, could reflect our time – and in so doing, become timeless.