Saxophone quartet

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Python Saxophone Quartet in 2008 with standard SATB configuration Python Saxophone Quartet.jpg
Python Saxophone Quartet in 2008 with standard SATB configuration
The Spiral Saxophone Quartet in 2013 with SATB saxophones. The Spiral Saxophone Quartet in 2013 with SATB saxophones.jpg
The Spiral Saxophone Quartet in 2013 with SATB saxophones.

A saxophone quartet is a musical ensemble composed of four saxophones, typically soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. Different saxophone family members are employed to provide a larger range and a variety of tone colours. Other arrangements of instruments also exist, but are rarer. A piece of music composed for such an ensemble can also itself be referred to as a saxophone quartet.



The saxophone was developed in 1840 by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian instrument maker, flautist, and clarinetist based in Brussels. Sax went to considerable effort to popularize the instrument but faced opposition in his efforts from his fellow instrument makers at the time. Despite being initially conceived of as an orchestral instrument, it was through the avenue of military music that the instrument first gained significant momentum. [1] Composer Jean-Baptiste Singelee had written works for four saxophones in the 19th century. These included Allegro de concert (AATB), Quatuor en 4 Parties (SATB), and Grand Quatuor Concertant en 3 Parties (SATB). In 1878, the Gilmour Band featured a quartet of saxophones which included Edouard Lefèbre, a soloist in the band. Lefèbre went on to form his own saxophone quartet in 1905 with a repertoire of transcriptions. [1]

The main impetus for the recognition of this ensemble was by Marcel Mule, who was the second Professor of saxophone at the Paris Conservatoire after Adolphe Sax himself. In 1928, he founded Le Quatuor de la Musique de la Garde Républicaine, later known as Le Quatuor de saxophones de Paris, and then the Marcel Mule Quartet. The founding members were:

Subsequent members included:

Many works for saxophone quartet that are now considered part of the standard repertoire were written for this ensemble. Mule himself also arranged works for this group. [1]

Daniel Deffayet was a student of Marcel Mule, and later professor of saxophone at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1953 he founded the ‘’Quatuor de Saxophones Daniel Deffayet’’ with other members Jacques Maffei, Jacques Terry and Jean Ledieu. Sigurd Rascher, his daughter Carina Rascher, Bruce Weinberger and Linda Bangs formed the Rascher Saxophone Quartet in 1969 which continues to this day. Jean-Yves Fourmeau formed his own quartet in 1979. These ensembles contributed significantly to expanding the repertoire through their work with composers. Notable composers who have written quartets include Phil Woods, Alexander Glazunov, Eugene Bozza, Philip Glass, and others. Since the 1970s jazz quartets have started to emerge as well, broadening the scope of the ensemble and the idiom of the repertoire. [1]

Current Forms

The Deep Schrott bass-saxophone quartet Deep Schrott TFF2014 (1).JPG
The Deep Schrott bass-saxophone quartet

Saxophone quartets abound as amateur and professional ensembles as well as university-affiliated groups. [2] The most recent World Saxophone Congress, in 2015, hosted a competition specifically for saxophone quartets with a first prize of 4000 euros and a recital, [3] won by Keuris Saxophone Quartet. [4] Saxophone quartets also compete in, and have won, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, which is the world's largest classical chamber music competition.

While SATB remains the most common classical configuration, occasionally the soprano is replaced by another alto leading to an AATB configuration particularly in jazz and contemporary ensembles. Other configurations do exist, notably the Four Baritones Quartet (BBBB) [5] and Deep Schrott (BassBassBassBass) [6] but are much rarer.


Notable quartets

Related Research Articles

In music, a quartet or quartette is an ensemble of four singers or instrumental performers; or a musical composition for four voices or instruments.

Saxophone Single-reed woodwind instrument

The saxophone is a type of single-reed woodwind instrument with a conical body, usually made of brass. As with all single-reed instruments, sound is produced when a reed on a mouthpiece vibrates to produce a sound wave inside the instrument's body. The pitch is controlled by opening and closing holes in the body to change the effective length of the tube. The holes are closed by leather pads attached to keys operated by the player. Saxophones are made in various sizes and are almost always treated as transposing instruments. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.

Marcel Mule was a French classical saxophonist. He was known worldwide as one of the great classical saxophonists, and many pieces were written for him, premiered by him, and arranged by him. Many of these pieces have become staples in the classical saxophone repertoire. He is considered to be the founder of the French Saxophone School and the most representative saxophone soloist of his time, being a fundamental figure in the development of the instrument.

Alto saxophone Type of saxophone

The alto saxophone, also referred to as the alto sax, is a member of the saxophone family of woodwind instruments. Invented by Belgian instrument designer Adolphe Sax in the 1840s and patented in 1846, it is pitched in E, smaller than the tenor but larger than the soprano. It is the most common saxophone and is commonly used in popular music, concert bands, chamber music, solo repertoire, military bands, marching bands, and jazz. The fingerings of the different saxophones are all the same, so a saxophone player can play any type of saxophone.

SATB is an initialism that describes the scoring of compositions for choirs, and also choirs of instruments. The initials are for the voice types: S for soprano, A for alto, T for tenor and B for bass.

Fred Hemke, DMA(néFrederick Leroy Hemke Jr.; July 11, 1935 – April 17, 2019) was an American virtuoso classical saxophonist and influential professor of saxophone at Northwestern University. Hemke helped raise the popularity of classical saxophone, particularly among leading American composers and helped raise the recognition of classical saxophone in solo, chamber, and major orchestral repertoire. For a half century, from 1962 to 2012, Hemke was a full-time faculty music educator at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music. In 2002, Hemke was named Associate Dean Emeritus of the School of Music. Hemke retired from Northwestern University in 2012. From the start of his career in the early 1960s, building on the achievements of earlier influential American teachers of classical saxophone — including those of Larry Teal, Joseph Allard, Cecil Leeson, Sigurd Raschèr, and Vincent Abato — Hemke, and a handful of peer American saxophonists — including Eugene Rousseau and Donald Sinta — helped build American saxophone repertoire through composers that included Muczynski, Creston, Stein, Heiden, and Karlins. Journalist and author Michael Segell, in his 2005 book, The Devil's Horn, called Hemke "The Dean of Saxophone Education in America." Hemke died on April 17, 2019.

Lawrence S. Gwozdz is an American classical saxophonist, composer, and former professor of saxophone at The University of Southern Mississippi, his successor is Dr. Dannel Espinoza.

Contrabass saxophone Low pitched instrument in the saxophone family

The contrabass saxophone is the second-lowest-pitched extant member of the saxophone family proper. It is extremely large and heavy, and is pitched in the key of E, one octave below the baritone saxophone.

Walter Sinclair Hartley was an American composer of contemporary (classical) music.

Jean-Baptiste Singelée Belgian composer

Jean-Baptiste Singelée was a Belgian classical composer of the romantic period.

Sigurd Raschèr American saxophonist

Sigurd Manfred Raschèr was an American saxophonist born in Germany. He became an important figure in the development of the 20th century repertoire for the classical saxophone.

The Raschèr Saxophone Quartet is a professional ensemble of four saxophonists which performs classical and modern music.

(Guillaume) Guy Lacour was a French composer of classical music, and a tenor saxophonist.

Édith Lejet French composer and music educator (born 1941)

Édith Lejet is a French composer and music educator.

Jeanine Rueff was a French composer and music educator.

Guillaume Connesson French composer

Guillaume Connesson is a French composer born in 1970 in Boulogne-Billancourt.

Arno Bornkamp

Arno Bornkamp is a Dutch classical saxophonist, the professor of the Conservatory of Amsterdam, and is considered an influential soloist in the classical repertoire.

François Daneels was an internationally renowned virtuoso classical saxophonist, a prolific composer, and music educator from Belgium. From 1954 to 1981, Daneels was professor of saxophone at his alma mater, the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.

Claude Pascal French composer

Claude Pascal was a French composer.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Richard Ingham (1998). The Cambridge companion to the saxophone . Cambridge University Press. pp.  65. ISBN   978-0-521-59666-4.
  2. (page 2)
  3. "Saxophone quartet competition | SaxOpen". Archived from the original on 2014-07-13.
  4. "Keuris Quartet". keurisquartet. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  5. "FOUR BARITONES". Niels Bijl. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  6. "Deep Schrott: The Only Bass Saxophone Quartet in the Universe"
  7. "Budapest Saxophone Quartet". Retrieved 25 March 2022.

See also