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Glass, Escaich & Gotkovsky: Oasis Quartet

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Album Review

The Oasis Quartet, founded in 2006, is made up of four saxophones, and on its first release it includes works originally written for that ensemble, as well as a transcription of a string quartet. The transcription, Philip Glass' String Quartet No. 3 ("Mishima"), was in turn arranged from material from the composer's soundtrack to Paul Schrader's 1985 film biography of the Japanese writer and activist, originally written for and performed by the Kronos Quartet. Much of Glass' music has proven to be amenable to arrangement for various ensembles, and while the version for saxophones doesn't quite have the dynamic range of the original, because of the strings' ability to play very, very quietly, it's an effective performance. It's an urgent score with an unmistakable romantic impulse and the last two movements in particular carry a potent emotional punch. Le bal by French composer Thierry Escaich (born in 1965) is worlds apart in tone — it's rhythmically and harmonically more complex with a sophisticated, urbane wit that sometimes veers into giddiness — and it's a terrific foil for the Glass. Ida Gotkovsky (born in 1933) is also French, but her 1983 Quatuor doesn't have the originality or distinctiveness of Escaich's piece. It's very pleasant and entirely well-made, but sounds formulaic in relation to the vitality of the other two works on the album. The Oasis Quartet performs with impeccable technique and intonation, and the players have a sweet, pure tone. Innova's sound is clear, clean, and nicely ambient.

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