for saxophone quartet
Written for the J4 Saxophone Quartet, Seven Bagatelles essentally reflect the traditional light character typically associated with traditional bagatelles with the exception of the third movement. Each movement is also indicative of a particular style of compositional craft — Prelude, Scherzo, Elegy, & Waltz.
Seven Bagatelles was written exclusively for the J4 Saxophone Quartet, comprised of John Nichol, Jonathan Nichol, Joe Lulloff, and Jordan Lulloff. Bagatelles were typically short pieces for written for piano, being somewhat light in character and style. The Seven Bagatelles essentially reflect the traditional light character with the exception of the third movement. Each movement is also indicative of a particular style of compositional craft.
The first movement, “Prelude,” tends to be highly chromatic and angular, centering on a three-note motive consisting of two 32nd notes and a dotted eighth. The character is dramatic and fanfare-like. The “Scherzo,” movement two, is nearly a perpetual motion of sixteenth notes derived from a twelve-tone row and its various contortions. In keeping with the character of the scherzo, the movement is quite playful. Movement three is an elegy and is an exception to the overall light character of this set of Bagatelles. It is a tribute to the children and teachers who were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, and is simply a setting of the well known children’s hymn, “Jesus Loves Me,” using a dark, dissonant, and reflective harmonic style. Perhaps the lightest in character, movement four is a waltz, cast mostly in 6/8 meter utilizing the resources of the octatonic scale. The movement contains tongue-in-cheek quotes from famous waltzes by Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Weber, Ravel, and Johann Strauss, Jr. And, for good measure, there is an elusion to “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saens. Movement five is a simple, lyrical, and expressive song. An “Interlude” follows as movement six with doubly dotted rhythms and quintal harmony suggesting a sort of procession leading to the seventh movement, “Reel.” The “Reel” is a light-hearted romp using a cliché pentatonic fiddling motive, quartal and quintal harmonies, an abundance of after beats, and multiple changes of meter. The movement fiddles away incessantly and leads to a “barn burning” conclusion.
Grade Level: 4
Number of Players: 4