Any musical performance titled “Volcanic Ash” creates huge shoes for it to fill from the get-go. No one expects the musicians to engulf the audience in pyroclastic flow, but the audience might expect some similar explosions from the performance.
The UConn Saxophone Quartet followed through and then some last night, showcasing “Volcanic Ash” in von der Mehden Recital Hall. The quartet, like all quartets, is made of four musicians: Noah Brisson, a senior soprano saxophonist, Adrienne Foret, a senior alto saxophonist, Tessa Webb, a sophomore tenor saxophonist and Ian Sauco, a junior baritone saxophonist. The performance was both Webb’s first and Foret’s last, the latter of whom is retiring from the quartet after seven semesters in order to student-teach next semester.
They killed it. There might not have been a volcano, but the stage was on fire. From the first note, the four performers launched into a saucy Latin inspired piece, titled “Concert Fantasy on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen.” The bouncy piece was complete with tango-esque harmonies and staccato unison passages, and told the audience they chose the right place to spend their Tuesday nights without saying a word.
By the end of the performance, the audience couldn’t take their eyes off the stage. The closing tune, also titled “Volcanic Ash,” featured a superb tenor solo from Webb, giving her a defining moment in her first (hopefully of many) quartet performance. The piece was written for the Donald Sinta Quartet’s annual Composition Competition, and “utilizes fast meter changes, virtuosic arpeggios and extreme registers,” as the informational pamphlet points out. The piece lives up to its billing, featuring an unpredictable score that you won’t be able to tap your feet to because you have no idea what’s going on, and don’t even care. It takes a ridiculous amount of talent to perform this piece, and the quartet made it look like a tuning warm-up.
The sizable audience gave the foursome a deserved standing ovation at the performance’s closure, and many stayed to greet them afterwards. “I’m the saxophone professor here at UConn, and I’ve been coaching the UConn Saxophone Quartet for the last 13 years,” said Greg Case, a resident of Norwich. “This iteration of the group has been together for just this semester, and they have made really great strides together. I’m really proud of what they have accomplished, and they have a great future ahead of them.” Case announced to the crowd mid-show that this performance garnered the largest audience of any in the group’s decade plus-long existence.
The student audience, which was one of the largest I’ve seen at any von der Mehden event I’ve covered, was as enraptured as I was. “Tonight truly had an inspirational amount of effort put into creating such beautiful music,” Connor Backes, third-semester music education major, said. “Top tier. I can’t say anything bad about them. Their chemistry was clearly noticeable.”
“The amount of work that they put in shows in their performance,” added Rishi Nallur, a third-semester biology major. “The amount of musicality was at such a high level.”
The UConn Saxophone Quartet brought an energy to their performance with four people that some concert bands fail to achieve with dozens. Like Camila Cabello, they’ve proved they don’t need a fifth harmony.
Daniel Cohn is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.