Benjamin Rickevicius – “Saxophone Quartet: Leaving Day” – Young Composer Score Call

Benjamin Rickevicius’s “Saxophone Quartet: Leaving Day” is a charming and well-structured piece, that clearly exists more in the composer’s head than in the MIDI realization.  The score can be found here, and the MIDI realization, that will sound much better and more fluid in real life, can be found here:

The composer clearly has a good understanding of form, phrasing, and how saxophones work.  In addition, there is a developing sense of harmony and counterpoint.   The opening two bars serve as a prelude to the main melody, and I wonder what the composer’s intent is with the melody; is it meant to be large, bold, and proud; or lyrical, slender, even sly?  With the title “Leaving Day,” I wonder if the piece is glad to be leaving something behind, distraught to be leaving something it enjoyed or loved, or if it is a mixture of melancholy and optimism.  The music seems to want to go large and bold, but I would love to read program notes so we could get further inside the composer’s head.  One suggestion might be to add expressive text, for example “joyfully” or “saddened” at measure 3 (depending on the composer’s intent).

The move to quarter note = 80 at bar 11 is the most convincing part of the piece, in my opinion.  The contrast to the bordering sections and the use of triplets and trills form a development that does, with nuance, balance out those bordering sections.  What I would love to see, is not just the double barline at that section, but a mood marking at the tempo change  (eg. “Reflectively, Q=80”).  A dynamic change would aid this section, too.

Here are some score study and listening suggestions:

  1. “Naima,” off of Giant Steps, by John Coltrane, to expand even more the composer’s harmonic palette and saxophone lyricism
  2. “Follow Me,” off of Imaginary Day, by Pat Metheny Group, for an example of stretching a melody and section as far as the material can go.  Your sections in the piece can be stretched even further!
  3. As many of J.S. Bach’s chorales as possible.  They will give you an in-depth look at harmony.  Try playing parts of them at a piano, too!
  4. Quartet in G Minor for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello, K478, I. Allegro, by Mozart.  This piece is more powerful in person, so see if you can hear this live.  This movement is very emotive, contrapuntally rich, texturally diverse, and structurally dynamic.

Nice work!  The score layout is quite polished, too.  Real players will appreciate that.


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