• Jouni Kaipainen
  • Vernal Concerto, Op. 53 (1996)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 4 Saxophones
  • 32 min

Programme Note

The saxophone quartet is a fascinating ensemble. The registers and coloristic possibilities of its individual members are vast, and together these four instruments cover a huge field both register- and timbrewise. Since a saxophone is also capable of reacting fast and being rhythmically precise, a composer can actually find in this ensemble everything he may need.

I myself have been especially interested in the famous “classically” pure extraordinary homogenous sound of the Raschér Saxophone Quartet; but when a piece of music is as extensive as my concerto eventually is, the spectrum of different articulations, ways of producing sound, textures and situations is naturally colourful. The social allusion of a saxophone is said to lay in the field of jazz music, but the timbral basis of the Raschér Quartet is so clearly different that echoes of jazz (which definitely can be heard in some other pieces of mine) were either automatically left aside or they are only remotely alluded to. This was not conscious limiting, since I wanted to let the character of music develop independently.

VERNAL CONCERTO deserves its title at least due to the fact that it was composed during the spring of 1996. I, personally, sense a strong spring-like feeling in the music, and for some mystical reasons I hear it as a journey from the equinox in March to the Solstice in June – although the “time-space” of this concerto is certainly not linear and, therefore, the journey does not proceed in one direction only. The piece lasts for a bit more than half an hour, and it is subdivided to several “movements”, “phases” or “fragments”. Nevertheless, the whole is played without a break. The tranquil introduction gently approaches different starting points, rather like spring at its beginning – at the latitudes of Finland, the vernal equinox is still a very early date: plants do not yet flourish and migratory birds have not yet come back from the south. As the heat waves grow stronger, the first main section, Allegro capriccioso, rushes in. This can be seen as the “main theme phase”, and subsequently the following Andante fluente holds the position of a “secondary theme”, even if its material is handled at least as much as that of the “main theme”. The “secondary theme” appears already in the exposition in the form of a wholly new version, and this leads to a climax and reappearance of the Allegro capriccioso, this time more developed and soloistic than before. In a new climax the orchestra takes over and restores the searching character of the introduction. This is where the “slow movement” of the concerto starts. After varying moods and textural situations (Andante, Andantino con delicatezza) this is interrupted by a hazy, spooky episode marked Presto. Then the introductory mood comes back and leads to a developed recapitulation of the Andante, and thereafter follows a cadenza, which despite its exact notation sounds like an improvisation. The finale is a jubilant and boisterous Allegro alla danza, “a combination of gigne and csárdás”, which just before the very ending breaks into a mysterious, “unearthly” variant of the introduction.

Jouni Kaipainen