For the last year and a half, I have been based in Vienna, where I have had the opportunity to study saxophone with Lars Mlekusch and chamber music with the Altenberg Trio. I plan to write on several topics related to Vienna, the saxophone community, and the new music scene. This entry will focus on the saxophone festival that took place this past week, organized by Lars Mlekusch at the Konservatorium in Vienna.
The first “Saxfest” took place over six days, which were packed full of masterclasses, lectures, open rehearsals, and performances. The two guest saxophonists were Marie-Bernadette Charrier and Mario Marzi who each gave two days of masterclasses and full-length concerts. There were also several guest composers at the festival who gave coachings and lectures on their music, Christophe Havel, Germán Toro-Pérez, Mikel Kuehn, Karlheinz Essl, and technician Florian Bogner, who gave a lecture on Max/MSP.
Duo Saxophonic performed a fantastic concert the opening night, consisting of Germán Toro-Pérez’s new piece for saxophone and electronics, Signos Oscillantes and an exciting improvisation. Duo Saxophonic is dedicated to the idea of elevating the sound technician (Florian) to the role of co-performer.
Marie-Bernadette Charrier presented a concert based on a similar rationale, with Christophe Havel working the electronics. Both are founding members of the successful new music ensemble, Proxima Centauri. Charrier is a fantastic performer, and gave an inspiring concert of music by Havel, Juan Arroyo, François Rossé, and Thierry Alla.
Charrier’s masterclasses the following two days were also a major highlight of the festival. She has an amazing way of penetrating to the essence of a piece and constructing each lesson on this logic. Her teaching, and indeed her musicianship, finds the delicate balance between concept and practice, intellect and physicality.
I had the honor to invite American composer, Mikel Kuehn, who wrote a new piece for the festival, titled Intersections which I premiered with Solaris Duo. All of his other saxophone music was performed as well: Crack, Intersections and Resonances, Resonances, and his major work for saxophone ensemble and electronics, Objet/Ombre. He also gave a fascinating lecture about the year long-process he went through composing Objet/Ombre.
Additionally I was able to invite Module Saxophone Quartet, a new ensemble consisting of Joshua Hyde, Carl-Emmanuel Fisbach, Patrick Stadler and me. We gave a performance of music by Franco Donatoni, Hèctor Parra, and Mikel Kuehn’s saxophone quartet Etchings. More information on this ensemble coming soon…
*Photography by Michał Knot