Xasax was 20


Xasax était en résidence à l’Abbaye de Royaumont pour la session de composition 2011 avec Les Cris de Paris et l’Ensemble Recherche.

               "2011 : 20 years of XASAX, a rich season"

These last months were characterised by an intense activity for our quartet : a season rich in projects and in exceptional participations in events of great importance in the field of contemporary music.

First of all, we had the pleasure to be invited to play for the Siemens MusikPreis in Munich in May, 2011, often called the Nobel prize of the musicians because of the importance of the event and the amount of the awarded Prizes.

We created Hans Thomalla's new piece, Albumblatt II, during the prize-giving concert in the Cuvillier Theatre, magnificent architecture of the XVIIIth century which is one of the buildings of the Opera of Munich. It was probably the first time that a saxophone quartet played within the organisation of this prize and the fact that the organizers and composers asked for us is of course a testimony of interest for our work, and we are grateful to them for that mark of esteem.

Our participation as a saxophone quartet in the Session of composition of the Abbey of Royaumont was another strong moment, with the work with the young composers and prestigious professors present : Brian Ferneyhough, Mark André and Hector Parrà. The collaboration with Les Cris de Paris and the Ensemble Recherche was also very rewarding.

Some of the composers premiered in Royaumont in 2011 :

German Alonso, Oscar Piniella, Mathias Krüger, Miguel Farrias

Finally, next week (December 3rd, 2011 ), the quartet will officially blow its 20 candles with the Ensemble ALEPH, to which we are bound for a long time but with whom we had not played yet. The Concert on December 3rd at the theater Dunois will propose to hear the "classics" of our repertory (Xenakis, Donatoni, Bouchot, Papier) and a second mixed concert during which we shall premiere with Aleph works by Jean-Charles François, Denis Chouillet, Jean-Baptiste Devillers, Erik de Clercq, Ernest H Papier, Dominique Clément.
In all, about fifteen premieres only on this last quarter of 2011.

              The specificity of XASAX: remain exceptional

If the startpoint purpose of the quartet was to play ALL the contemporary repertory which appealed to us, we have regrettably (or maybe, so much the better) had to give up this project, because of the growing number of quality works.

We thus had to restrain ourselves with only "following" a few composers towards whom our choices and sometimes fate carried us: Xenakis, Donatoni, Cage, to begin with, then Dufourt, Kuczer, Netti, Aperghis, Berio, Sciarrino became privileged partners, among others younger. Rarely of those who were already friends of the saxophone: not that we intended reject them for particular reasons, but also because our effort would be less useful in this domain.

The idea not to specialize within the group (except maybe for myself on the baritone, for practical reasons) was present from the beginning, and favored the birth of pieces with original instrumentation, and consecutively particular tone colors. Saxophone quartets' usually balanced tones are sometimes too heavy and lead to related snoring.

Then, functioning on projects became a trademark : partnerships with specific musicians or other groups, particular shows or conceptual programs ...

Sound malleability is also one of strengths of the XASAX quartet. Formed by very marked individualities with  asserted conceptions, trained at very different schools, having each a soloist career and independent chamber-music player, we are used to find satisfactory compromise solutions.

The research of a specific way of playing which serves the project of the piece without stylistic or technical a priori, reference to a school or an other, to a tradition or practices (either modern or conventional) … Any relevant idea is weighed, amended, adopted or given up to the benefit of a better one.

The meeting with the music of Salvatore Sciarrino caused a involuntary turn in our musical approach : his two collections of transcriptions, "Pagine" and "Canzoniere da Scarlatti" who constitute a work in itself, pushed us out of our borders, obliging us to confront with the music of the past, the existence of which we had a little neglected for lack of time and of "necessity". The realization of the CD demanded long practice of deciphering the various historic languages, and their adaptation to the saxophone was not always simple ! But the result is unmistakably a success.

From now on, we wish to integrate in our projects some "classical" repertory pieces which seem to us valid musically, as the Glazounov and Schmitt Saxophone Quartets …

The autumn fashion "trend" ? If we rely on the young composers in Royaumont : the low instruments. Almost all the pieces were with baritones (up to 3), and even tubax. Only one (out of 8) with soprano. Family's health is good.

SB, Cité de la Musique: saxophone ensembles