Andy Scott, saxophone lecturer at the Royal Northern School of Music looks at the latest album from the Syzygy Saxophone Quartet.
New album: Songs For The Coming Day
The Syzygy Quartet comprises four established and respected saxophonists; Naomi Sullivan (soprano sax), Dominic Childs (alto sax), Michaela Stapleton (tenor sax) & Neil McGovern (baritone sax). Formed in 2009 the group dedicate this CD to their teacher and mentor from days studying at the Royal College of Music, Kyle Horch.
Syzygy were one of a number of saxophone quartets that formed a consortium to commission the respected American composer David Maslanka. This is a great way not only to create new repertoire, but to ensure that there are a series of performances of the commission!
Maslanka at times leaves real space in his music, allowing it to breathe, using largely traditional harmony and combining the various musical elements to produce music that has a deep spirit and level of communication. Contrast this with moments of technical virtuosity (without the composer feeling the necessity to introduce extended techniques) and a number of musical challenges are asked of the performers, necessitating a Quartet that possess a deep understanding of music and that have real control of their instruments.
The Syzygy Quartet has both of these qualities in abundance, and treats us to a 44-minute musical journey through Songs for the Coming Day that ranges from the aching beauty and raw intensity of ‘For the Dead’ to the sustained declamatory miminalism of ‘The Soul Is Here For Its Own Joy’, before closing with the beautifully arching title track, ‘Song For The Coming Day’.
There really is something special about the sound of Syzygy; pure with immaculate intonation and a true ensemble blend, the individual players carefully shadowing the lead melodic line, wherever that might be in the quartet.
Maslanka believes that, in a world of conflict and war, there is a rising creative flow, and that the musicians, by giving deep attention to each sound, bring listeners into the same creative flow, that will prevail over conflict.
The music on this CD does have a meditative and calming effect, even in louder sections, and credit to the Quartet for helping bring this music into the world, and for performing so exquisitely on this recording.
Regardless of which type of music you choose to play as a saxophonist, and speaking as someone who has performed in a saxophone quartet for thirty years, I would urge you to buy this recording as the Syzygy Quartet transport us to a dark, beautiful and spiritual musical world, it’s as if we’re riding on the wings of angels!
Get Songs for the Coming Day on Amazon
About the author:
Andy Scott is a founding member of the multi prizewinning Apollo Saxophone Quartet. He is also an award winning composer and saxophone lecturer at the Royal Northern Academy of Music in Manchester, England.