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Die Kunst der Fuge › Berliner Saxophon Quartett
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Berliner Saxophon Quartett

cpo 1991, Germany; recorded 9/90
Menu: printed score without Choral (+ one track improvisation)
Total Time (without appendix): 82:38

A kaleidoscope of almost Shakespearean variety. The quartet shows us every kind of human (or cosmic) drama, from an intimate dialogue up to cinemascope battle scenes, from haunting nightmares to glorious sunsets - never boring. Each movement has its individual character and dramatic effect, so that a DKdF-trained listener maybe won’t recognize each one at once (this is also the reason why they here appear in a rather unusual ordering). For example, Cp.2 (here on track no.3) starts creeping, obscure, sotto voce, and after a central period of brightness it is pacing back to where it came from. The very slow tempo (5:28!) breeds a surprising effect: the dotted rhythm, usually jumping in a mazurka-like manner, comes out as a melancholy waltz (another crown: the final chord at the end of struggling through Cp.11).

The quartet’s tone is warm and cultivated, recorded without any breathing or mechanical noise; throughout in a non-vibrato clarity; only at the rare points when one player tries to place a somehow “baroque” ornament, we can hear that this must be an unknown field for them. Their fine sensibility for different moods, and for each other allows many delights - in the Canon alla Decima, we can listen to a sensuous, erotic dialogue (despite some imprecise intonation of the soprano); and the final, unfinished fugue on b-a-c-h gives us, far from romantic sentimentality, a moving impression of what it probably never was: the last sigh of a fulfilled life.

At the end of disc 2 we find a “free spatial improvisation” of some 4 minutes; an interesting experience which can be fascinating when standing alone, or being heard in a live concert. Even accepting the fact that this piece has nothing to do with DKdF, it sounds here, at the end of more than 80 minutes of well-tempered harmony, completely displaced, as it smashes violently the remaining echoes. Maybe it has been included merely to fill a little of the remaining space on this double CD set. Nevertheless…

Good booklet information in English, German and French about the work and some interpretation questions. Nice cover design, based on Luigi Veronesi’s “Visualisazione cromatica: J.S.Bach contrapunto n.2 dall’ arte della fuga” (1971) which you can see on our links page.

Recommendation: in any sense. For opening your ears to a work that you don’t know yet, or that you believe to know very well.

(March 2002)