Philadelphia classical music events, discussion, and directory
The setting was perfect for an evening with two quartets brimming with creativity. With the painted faces of the diabolical orchestra musicians on the walls of the Gallary Dalet looking over our shoulders, the newly formed Beta Test Music assembled for the first portion of the concert. This was only their 2nd concert but not a single worn out classical piece could be found in their program. Instead, the mix included a number of video game tunes arranged by various members of their quartet:
I spend all day on computers for work so I've always avoided using them, or game consoles, for entertainment, too. Thus I was not familiar with original tunes from the video games, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2", "Mega Man", and "Final Fantasy III", which inspired 3 of their pieces. Aware of the simple boop, beep tones of early console games, I wasn't expecting much. To my great surprise, it not only worked, but actually made for some pretty enjoyable music. One of my favorites, though not of video game origin, was the work of composer friend of the group, Nat Evans, called "No Origination".
The Garden State Saxophone Quartet quickly assembled next and immediately dove into a difficult and impressive piece called "Playing with Matches" by Fred Cohen. It was clear from their tight performance that this ensemble has been working together for a number of years. In fact they first formed in 2003 while attending Montclair State University. Their widely varied selections which ranged from Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" to a brand new work by Beta Test's Doug Laustsen based on Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance Fantasy" was great fun, even toe tapping fun, at times.
Laustsen explained some of the influences on his "Bad Romance Fantasy" but left it up to us to draw our own final conclusions. Personally, I thought it was a great improvement over the original and my impression was very visual. Picture someone with the original score and a big pair of scissors. Start playing the piece and keep on playing as someone else keeps slicing it into smaller and smaller bits. Occasionally throw the bits in the air to jumble them a bit more, and don't be surprised if you occasionally find a bigger chunk of familiar music left on the stand. The resulting work was far more interesting than the original. Laustsen even described that his piece played earlier in the evening, "Duet Miniatures". was a collection of those bits that fell out and didn't quite fit in the final "Bad Romance Fantasy".
Finally, to end the evening with a bang, the two quartets came together for a duel. 4+4=7 in this case because Saxophone player, Ellis Jasenovic was a member of both quartets. I wondered how much kidding Justin Bulava had to endure behind the scenes as the only woodwind player in a sea of brass. The combined ensemble performed Canzon Primi Toni - a beautiful piece arranged by Laustsen, and "Liberi Fatali", arranged by Ellis Jasenovic.
The Garden State Saxophone Quartet was comprised of:
Keep your eyes open for performances by either of these ensembles, or better yet, a rematch!