After hearing only their first five or six bars, I sat up in my seat. “Wow!” I thought, “These guys are really good!”
In a way I had dreaded the Sept. 19 recital in Fannin Hall because it was previewed as a performance featuring four saxophones, which are not normally considered, by my nimrod ear at least, as instruments for serious unaccompanied concert fare. How wrong I was.
Wafting in on the wings of four seasoned players known as the Texas Saxophone Quartet, George Friedrich Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from his opera “Solomon” landed on the stage like a whirling dervish. The foursome is composed of Dallasites Don Fabian, David Lovrien, Chris Beaty and John Sweeden each of whom has a list of credentials exceeded only by his outstanding musical ability. Three are members of the Dallas Winds, two are local college professors of music, two are composers and all are former music students.
The noontime program’s opening wake-up call was followed by another equally impressive classical piece, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Fuga BWV 550.” It was introduced as the world premiere saxophone arrangement of a Bach fugue originally written for the recorder. The piece was arranged by the group’s Lovrien. It featured Fabian on the E Flat sopranino sax, an instrument pitched an octave above the alto sax. His delivery in the higher ranges was pleasantly brisk and bright.
The second half of the concert was devoted to several lighter and jazzier compositions, two tailored especially for saxophone ensembles: Gordon Goodwin’s “Diffusion” and Ed Calle’s “Pamplona” from “The Iberia Suite.” Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” was preceded by Sweeden describing an experience in New York City where he once encountered the composer.
Throughout, to the edification of all the aspiring musicians in the audience, the players on stage displayed the trademark characteristics of outstanding chamber groups: clear body language and regular eye contact.
For those unacquainted with Richland’s recurring and free Tuesday noontime recital series, be aware that serious musical feasts such as this are an easy way to skip lunch, lose weight and gain joy.