Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Four for Tango - Siam Saxophone Quartet

In 1987, after the famous Central Park concert, Piazzolla attended a performance of the Kronos Quartet, met the quartet backstage afterward and began a relationship with the group that continued until his death. A few days after that meeting, Piazzolla had already composed a new piece for the quartet, Four for tango. The Kronos included it in their next CD, Winter was Hard, and according to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, they still play the piece in concert from Xerox copies of Piazzolla's original handwritten score. The piece is challenging both for the musicians and the listener and no quartet I have heard comes close to the Kronos performance.

Unexpectedly, the piece has mutated from a string quartet challenge to a saxophone quartet showpiece. That has happened thanks to a transcription/arrangement by Claude Voirpy which is available commercially from Henry Lemoine Editions. The transcription is very respectful of the original but saxophone brings quite a different feel to the piece than the strings. There are bebop moments in the saxophone version which are totally absent in the more layered string version. Although the piece was clearly composed as a contemporary string quartet piece, it works surprisingly well on saxophones.

There are a number of saxophone quartet versions of Four for tango on YouTube but this is the first that is of high enough quality to share in this blog. The Siam Saxophone Quartet is the leading professional saxophone quartet in Thailand and would be on my short list for best in the world. The musicians in the quartet are Supat Hanpatanachai, Promwut Sudtakoo, Wisuwat Pruksawanich and Anond Fuangfoo. These four young men have studied around the world and honed their skills at a variety of competitions and master classes. I don't find any recordings by them yet but you can find more of their good music on Pruksawanich's YouTube channel.

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