In existence for less than three years, the Zephirus Quartet already has a distinct musical personality.
This stunningly delivered concert of largely unfamiliar music was the best possible advert for the variety and seriousness of recent music for the saxophone.
Steve Reich's New York Counterpoint, heard here in a version for quartet and eight-part electronic tape, is an attractive, if lightweight piece with characteristic interlocking melodic patterns, its constant activity disguising the lack of real harmonic movement.
Glazunov's Quartet Op. 109, the most important saxophone quartet of the romantic period, is a late work, written in exile in Paris in 1932. Obviously the work of a master musician, this substantial piece was given a dazzling performance with the sort of spontaneous give and take only possible with virtuoso players who know the score intimately.
Electronics appeared again in Dutch composer Jacob ter Veldhuis's Pitch Black. A dramatic and affecting piece, it uses the voice of trumpet player Chet Baker, interviewed shortly before his tragic death, in which he talks about his musical life, his drug addiction, and a period in prison ("it was pitch black in there you know"). Spoken phrases are looped to provide recurring riffs which are expanded and commented on by the live ensemble before a magical fadeout of Baker playing My Funny Valentine.
An imaginative transcription by band member Hayley Lambert of Shostakovich's The Age of Gold featured exquisite legato playing in the melancholy Adagio before ending with the well-known perky and sardonic Polka.
If the Zephirus Quartet can withstand the strains put on it by leader Amy Dickson's burgeoning solo career then celebrity can only be around the corner, and they'll have composers queuing to write pieces for them.