SIGNUM saxophone quartet release their first Deutsche Grammophon album Echoes today, 15 January 2021. This recording showcases the full potential of the saxophone, featuring inventive arrangements of music by composers from Dowland to Peter Gregson, as well as Guillermo Lago’s Sarajevo.
The four players continually subvert expectations of what a saxophone quartet should be. As can be heard in Echoes, complex shades of tone colour and timbre are fundamental to the Signum saxophone quartet sound. Their starting point is always an original composer or work they love and want to reimagine in a new spirit.
On stage, they stand in a curved line and perform mainly from memory. On 22 January, a concert from the Berlin Meistersaal in which the players present repertoire from the album will be streamed on DG Stage. Tickets for the concert can be purchased now!
Signum saxophone quartet’s recording showcases the saxophone – a modern instrument but one more than capable of capturing the echoes of the past. Two of its tracks, arrangements of works by the hugely successful contemporary composers Joep Beving and Max Richter, were pre-released as digital singles, complete with e-videos. “Ab Ovo” (arr. Knoth), from Beving’s album Prehension, was issued on 1 December 2020. Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”, from The Blue Notebooks, followed on 15 December in a new version for saxophone quartet and cello.
As well as travelling as far back as the sixteenth century with a transcription of Dowland’s Lachrimae antiquae, Echoes offers fresh versions of Albinoni’s “Adagio”, Fauré’s Pie Jesu and the chorale from Hindemith’s Trauermusik. Also in the mix are arrangements of works by Philip Glass, Pēteris Vasks and Peter Gregson, together with the haunting “Sarajevo” from Ciudades by Guillermo Lago, the composing alter ego of saxophonist Willem van Merwijk.
“They make the music almost visible,” observed the Hamburger Abendblatt. “Musical logic and voice leading dictate who looks at whom and who steps forward when – seemingly without the artists having to think about it. They’re like a single large organism.”
The ensemble have made or commissioned dozens of arrangements and transcriptions of pieces from past and present – part of their mission to expand the saxophone quartet repertoire and connect with new audiences.
Even as children all four musicians had dreamed of playing in a saxophone quartet and giving concerts all over the world. They ended up meeting in Cologne while studying there and decided to form an ensemble together, a move that soon led to competition success and a debut date at Carnegie Hall in 2013. Other landmarks include their recognition as “Rising Stars” by the European Concert Hall Organisation for the 2014–15 season, complete with concerts at many of Europe’s most prestigious venues, and the Festspiele Mecklenburg Vorpommern’s “Best Ensemble” award.