ANTITHESIS: Contemporary Saxophone Music


  • Artist(s): Michele Bianchini
  • Composer(s): Andrea Nicoli, Anna Clyne, Antonio Agostini, Maja S. K. Ratkje, Malin Bång, Mark Andre, Olga Neuwirth, Salvatore Sciarrino
  • EAN Code: 7.46160915180
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Instrumental
  • Instrumentation: Saxophone
  • Period: Contemporary
  • Publication year: 2023
SKU: C00683 Category:

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One of the most significant compositional trends developed in the second half of the 20th century is the effort to enhance the level of listening perception. Sounds have been given elaborate attention in the guise of scientific research. This tendency has opened a new and demanding frontier in music in which the notations for the dynamics in the scores have suddenly become futile compared to the depth of the sound research and the unusual techniques. The contemporary music system has commenced an unorthodox revolt scrutinizing the details surrounding the inaudible as well as those around the full intensity of the sound. This kind of research spans from the silent detail of the famous Scelsi piano key with the pedal until the ending of the sonic matter to the recent saturationist excursions found in French composers. One might ask if it is possible for the research and the techniques to blend so as to create a new contemporary panorama. Can scanning the dynamics and the extreme areas be a way of being transported into an emotional cell which is stimulated by the instruments? Is it possible to create a new sensitivity? And, if so, what kind of dialectic would emerge from the game of forces?
The selection that Bianchini proposes might be the answer to these questions. Here the compositions converge towards an idea of flow regulation, extensions and techniques that work together to catch what happens within a sound in a specific time. The saxophone is chosen for its corporeal sound offering an instrumental excellence that allows to live the ‘matter’ dimension. Everything that hands, mouth, fingerings, or breath carve is unity, a tangible tension that brings us closer to the physics of the materials as well as the abstraction of art. The corporeality is to be embedded in what Bianchini wished to explore, namely the transparency and the intensity of timbres, currently seen as problematic universes. This corporeality expresses itself in a variety of compositional styles though united by the thread of a definitive semantic change. This work tackles the predictable harmonic sequences as they have been known in classical music until now, because the tension lives in confused situations, in the definitely unconventional textures of the saxophones and in the gestures of the performer.
In the last 20 years composers have turned the timber parameter into a meaning bearer, thus challenging both the laws of music and the theorists that do not recognize a direct relation between sounds and cognitions connected to them. Among these challengers, Salvatore Sciarrino has conceived a profound theory about signs for dynamics in the score and about the relations existing in the extreme limits of the sound registers, verifying the acoustic valorization areas that verge towards silence. Just as central is the value of harmonics, of the energy being released, and of the enticement of the noise. Bianchini guides us through a combination of harmonics emerging from a connection used by composers to recognize the acoustic meaning of their pieces: these harmonics are not always preponderant, they are produced in the development of the pieces and accept to become ‘adult’ only to contrast more powerful phenomena (such as the relation with electronics).

Going into the details of Bianchini’s work, there are two exquisite examples of how to produce music in relation to fingering. The first is the soprano saxophone version of Canzona di Ringraziamento by Sciarrino, a piece written in 1985 within the composer’s research on the flute, but which has encouraged saxophonists to play it considering its adaptive solutions that characterize it ab origine. This piece works on the relationship of the intensity of the breath with certain fingerings as a function of that research on the inaudible that has characterized much of Sciarrino’s production. The acoustic discoveries are implemented through the management of the octave key, with some arpeggios repeated, perfectly dosed in pressure and speed, which flush out the sounds present in the air channel of the sax. The other composition is iv12 by Mark Andre, for soprano, taken from the cycle that the composer dedicated to “introversion” (this is the meaning of iv), an invitation to new perceptions that follow a specific project: creating processes of disappearance of music and musical interstices endowed with space-temporality. A first part of impulses, five minutes of a strange rhythmic texture that does not produce tones, which shows the slaps produced thanks to the changes in the fingering and a second part that loses the constancy of the impulse and instead looks for variations and a speculative intent, with suffocations or elisions on the soprano. The research stays into the relationship between unusual rhythmic textures and hidden microtonal particles. The idea behind Delta Waves – written by Malin Bång for tenor saxophone – is to ​​musically fly over the waves of sleep. Here the techniques review a complex intertwining of situations that identify the alternation of phases of light sleep or little bumpy to others with very little movement; the saxophonist is asked to implement the same plan (as far as he can do!), trying to blend the perspectives with appropriate extensive techniques: the whispered and the rustle obtained without mouthpiece, the strong counterweight of the over-tones register are the elements on which the performer’s action is constituted. The other piece for tenor saxophone selected by Bianchini is …voci e parole sono delle linee… (Quarto studio sull’opera Nanof) by Antonio Agostini, a composition that is inspired by Oreste Fernando Nannetti, an unfortunate engraver suffering from spondylitis and insanity, who during his hospitalization covered the walls of the Ferri department of the Volterra asylum with graffiti produced through the buckles of their “crazy uniform”. Recognized a posteriori as art brut, in those wall engravings it is possible to glimpse stories that do not follow immediate logical lines. The piece, therefore, tries to give voice to the graffiti also using the electronics. It presents acoustic contrasts on the one hand, sly and swollen with sound, on the other harmonics and slaps that are dosed in the space at the same time enchanted and impervious in which the composition slips. Le rive di Mykines by Andrea Nicoli, for alto sax and tape, takes its cue from frequenting the coast of the small town of the Faroe Islands. However it is a piece that has no descriptive nature, it is a musical alteration that supports an alternative world of sounds obtained through tool extensions and a well-organized part of pre-registered electronics. The augmentations, the apoplectic strokes of the sax, the chokes, the air flows or the very fine harmonics are found in the double condition of the scenarios, which suggest grandeur and wonder. The use of the electronics becomes heavier for ØX, alto sax and tape composed by Maja Ratkje, with a sampling of effects of various kinds processed as noise that dot the path of the saxophonist, committed to inserting himself with ardent simulations in the development of the composition. The Norwegian composer’s investigation goes in the direction of probing the extremities where Ø is the expression of silence (emptiness) and X is the unknown substance of the saxophonist’s forays into the high notes. In Olga Neuwirth’s Spleen III, Bianchini introduces the baritone saxophone, conveying the Austrian composer’s message on the musical coherence of a state of human malaise. Melancholy and chronic dissatisfaction present themselves as in a circle of actions that explore the extremes of apparent tranquility and irritability to the bitter end. For Anna Clyne’s Choke, the goal is to build a score in which the baritone filters its characteristics in a synthetic environment, suitably composed of samples and preventive manipulations of the sax. The performer, however, confronts himself with his weapons, those that identify effects found on the keys, on the release of air flows and on the creation of very rich harmonics; the clogging is both musical and psychological.

Bianchini behaves as a conductor of energy, no matter what type, interpretative realism of an explorer of sounds, adamantine or explosive to occurrences, mysterious or granite depending on the type of reflection required by the composition. The dialectic of Antithesis requires the ability to know how to dominate contrasts and it demands a musician capable of creating a range of congruences that are not easily manageable. Ultimately, the entire project of Bianchini is a domination of the objective world liberating a perfectly totalized sound world.
Ettore Garzia © 2022


He is dedicated to the development and research of new repertoire in contemporary music both as a soloist and as a member of different chamber music ensembles. He has performed for important festivals and associations both in Italy and abroad such as Amici della Musica in Modena, Amici della Musica in Perugia, Area Sismica in Forlì, Forlì Open Music, L’Aquila Contemporanea, Milano Musica, Nuova Consonanza, Nuovi Spazi Musicali Festival, Rassegna di Nuova Musica in Macerata, Ravenna Festival, Megaron in Athens, Germany (Festival Intersonanzen in Potdsam, Musik Fabrik in Potdsam), Russia (Moscow Conservatory, Moscow Philarmonic, International Contemporary Music Festival in Perm), USA (Colorado College, Eastman School of Music in Rochester, Hartford University, New York University, Symphony Space Hall), 17th and 18th World Saxophone Congress which were held in Strasbourg (2015) and Zagreb (2018). He collaborated with M. Andre, C. E. Cella, F. Bedrossian, and S. Sciarrino. He has premiered works by: M. Azzan, E. Campion, C.E. Cella, R. Cendo, F. De Rossi Re, I. Fedele, A. Gentile, A. Khubeev, S. Sciarrino, G. Colombo Taccani, D. Terranova, N. Tzortzis, S. Scodanibbio, T. Papatrechas, Wei-Chieh Lin. He is a member of the Suono Giallo Ensemble, active and internationally appreciated group in the field of contemporary music.
He is also founding member of the Freem Saxophone Quartet, an active group in the dissemination of the classical and minimalist repertoire, and of the Sidera Saxophone Quartet, a group mainly dedicated to the contemporary and electroacoustic repertoire.
He has recorded works for A Simple Lunch, Ars Publica, Brilliant Classics, Ema Vinci, Map Editions and Navona Records.


Olga Neuwirth
(b Graz, 4 Aug 1968). Austrian composer. Some of her early compositions were performed at the Styrian Autumn Festival in 1985. She studied at the San Francisco Conservatory (1986–7) with Elinor Armer, among others, and took courses in painting and the cinema at the San Francisco Art College. She continued her studies at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik (1987–93), where her teachers included Erich Urbanner, Dieter Kaufmann and Wilhelm Zobl, and in Paris with Tristan Murail and the Stage d'Informatique Musicale at IRCAM (1993–4). She has also been influenced by Adriana Hölsky and Luigi Nono.

Salvatore Sciarrino (b Palermo, 4 April 1947). Italian composer. A precociously gifted child, he at first gravitated towards the visual arts: he displayed a talent for figurative painting by the age of four and by the age of ten was guiding himself towards ‘informal’ abstraction. But he found himself increasingly fascinated and challenged by music and so began experimenting with composition in 1959 under the guidance of Antonino Titone. Within three years he had achieved a first public performance at the 1962 Palermo New Music Week. A brief academic training under Turi Belfiore in 1964 provided the only interruption to this autodidactic progress, crowned by public performances in Rome (Quartetto II) and Palermo (Aka Aka to) in 1968. In 1969 he moved to Rome, where he continued to pursue his own path under the aegis of Franco Evangelisti whose course on electronic music at the Accademia di S Cecilia he attended. He quickly developed one of the most distinctive (and widely imitated) voices of his generation, making an obsessive, but impeccably calculated language from sound resources marginalized by previous generations such as string and wind harmonics and ancillary performance noises. At first these were deployed in baroque abundance – and to striking critical acclaim in his first theatre work, Amore e Psyche (1972). But during the 1970s, Sciarrino became increasingly concerned to pare down his resources to a characteristic play between sound and silence that has underpinned much of his subsequent work. This was explored extensively in the daring Un'immagine di Arpocrite (1974–9), a 45-minute adagio for piano, orchestra and chorus.