Unquiet Waters is a three-movement musical depiction of the “waters of our mind.” This is the second composition of mine that deals with this idea and is inspired by a quote by philosopher Prasad Mahes: “The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.” The movement titles are different states of the mind that we all deal with in some way: I. fast, turbulent; II. still; III. disturbed. I often find it difficult to focus or to still my mind, being that life has become increasingly busier and more chaotic. The chaotic moments in the music drift in and out of the calmness, as I search more for mental clarity and peace. Thank you to Dr. Jordan VanHemert for commissioning the work, to the North American Saxophone Alliance for selecting it as the 2020 Composition Contest Winner, and to Nicki Roman and Casey Dierlam Tse for professionally recording the work. — Kevin Day
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano was Leonard Bernstein’s first published work. The premiere was performed by David Glazer on clarinet and Bernstein himself, then 23 years old, at the Institute of Modern Art in Boston. A year later, the New York premiere was given by David Oppenheim to whom the composer dedicated the piece. The sonata showcases an exciting mix of both classical and jazz inflections, with syncopated rhythms and the occasional scoop in the melody line. The first movement showcases some of Bernstein’s early influences from his time spent at Tanglewood in 1941, including Hindemith and Copland. What I find particularly special about the work is that the Latin-infused bridge heard in the second movement is meant to reflect Bernstein’s time spent in Key West when he was a young composer. Having grown up on the same small island, surrounded by my Cuban heritage, this piece brings me pure joy. — Nicki Roman
Floating Bones is an unaccompanied alto saxophone solo in three continuous movements, written for and dedicated to Nicki Roman and a commissioning consortium of adventurous saxophonists. Floating bones are not connected to other bones but instead are connected to muscles and ligaments. While present in greater numbers in some other animals, the only true floating bone in the human body is the hyoid, which sits inside the larynx at the base of the tongue muscle. The unique placement of the human larynx combined with the shape of the hyoid bone are what allow us to speak articulately. I became fascinated with this floating bone, and how it relates to our ability to play (essentially “speak through”) musical instruments that we breathe into. Inspired by the above, I was halfway through writing the second of three movements of this piece, and I read that whales too have a hyoid that plays a large role in their sound production. That night I had a vivid dream, which was so striking that I decided to scrap one of the movements and start two new ones. The text for the 2nd movement came from this dream. — Olivia Kieffer
Cadenza is a piece I have held close to my heart for many years. Not only is it an underplayed gem in our repertoire, but it is also one of the first pieces Casey and I worked on together. I grew immensely as an artist through the journey of learning this work, and I feel a deep connection when performing it. Written in 1974 and premiered in Bordeaux, France, the work was dedicated to Michel Nouaux. In comparison to some of the other pieces featured on this album, Lucie Robert’s work is more abstract in form, structured by three main motives that are manipulated throughout the piece. With an absence of barlines, rhythmic complexity, high demand of technique, and stark contrasts in texture, this piece is just as exciting to listen to as it is to perform. — Nicki Roman
The highly virtuoso yet unstable work, Bug, was given its first performance on February 6, 1999 during the Mériel festival by its dedicatee Philippe Soured. It is a musical metaphor of the disarray caused by an imaginary computer breakdown (fortunately not predicting what might have happened on December 31, 1999). Although at the outset most of the rhythmic formulas are multiples of a common unity (the semiquaver), the music becomes less regular with the appearance of specific dynamics which often contradict the melodic profile. Similarly, the numerous trills, bisbigliando, and varied articulations all contribute to give a feeling of extreme density to these opening bars. Progressively the music seems to escape from the performer, and rapid passages replace the regular beat of the start of the work. Following a brief moment of calm, virtuosity comes to the fore, leading to a point of no return, a high note played ffff. Everything seems to disintegrate at this point, with disorientating quarter-tones, as if the pitches were melting into one another. — Bruno Mantovani
Edvard Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen is one of several short pieces in his collection of “Lyric Pieces” for solo piano. Composed in 1896, this work was premiered as an homage to his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife, Nina. The piece is simple in form, featuring a march-like opening, a lyrical middle section, and a return to the opening theme. This arrangement was done in order to continue to expand the soprano saxophone repertoire, particularly for students. It features only a few altissimo pitches and is very accessible for an intermediate performer. This one is dedicated to my mother, Patty Roman. — Nicki Roman
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