Saxophone Trio (ATB/STB). Arranged by Olaf Mühlenhardt. Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695) composed the Fantasias for String Instruments with three to seven parts in the summer of 1680 at the age of 21 for the traditional Viol Consorts, at a time when the instruments were already being replaced by the more ‘modern’ violins.
The Fantasias surprise us today with unusual harmonic turns and rather strong dissonances. Despite their apparent technical accessibility, the syncopated rhythms in these pieces require the performer’s special attention.
Another appealing peculiarity is the abundance of different moods within one movement accomplished by abrupt changes of tempo, harmony, articulation and dynamics. Tempo instructions are original while metronome markings and ritardandi are merely intended as a basis for your own interpretation. The close relationship between speech and music in the baroque era suggests an increased awareness for articulation: clarity of pronoun-ciation is the main objective. One should (in case of doubt even in slow and supposedly legato passages) articulate lightly and create space for beginnings of tones (upbeats and syncopation) and entries of other parts by slight separation. Today’s tenuto and sostenuto are the exception in baroque music. Dynamics are mostly evident through tempo and harmony. Proper balance between the parts is crucial to achieve transparency of poly-phony. All parts are equally important.
In this arrangement of the first three Fantasias for saxophones the first part can be played by the alto or the soprano saxophone. While the alto saxophone part corresponds to Purcell’s original, the soprano part had to be slighty modified to fit the instrument’s range. The changes in the baritone part were made to fit instruments without the low A.
Olaf Mühlenhardt, November 2004