The Amstel Quartet, an all-saxophone group named after Amsterdam’s famous river, is coming to the Weehawken waterfront to give a free concert this Thursday. Featuring some of the group’s most popular arrangements of Bach and Debussy, the quartet will open this season’s UBS Atrium Series, presented by the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center (HRPAC).
The concert takes place in the Atrium at 1000 Harbor Blvd. in Weehawken, right next to the Houlihan’s, on Oct. 29 at 12:30 p.m.
“Saxophone quartets are a totally different animal.” – Bruce Sherman
The concerts are sponsored in part by the Hudson Reporter.
The four saxophonists in the quartet, who met while performing with the Dutch National Youth Orchestra, have played together for over a decade in venues all around the world, including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Although the ensemble performs chamber music must-haves like Beethoven’s “Sonate Pastorale,” baritone saxophonist Ties Mellema said the group is surprisingly versatile. They have even performed on the soundtrack to Michael Nyman’s 1993 film “The Piano.”
“Saxophone players are a very open species of musicians,” Mellema said. “The difference with us is mainly in our personality as a quartet. We are very flexible and very eclectic.”
The ensemble has received top honors at competitions around the world, including first place finishes at the Concert Artists Guild International Competition in New York.
“You won’t hear just Hayden or Mozart,” Mellema said. “You’ll hear the whole range of the music we like from Arabian composers to British and American minimalists.”
Bruce Sherman, the executive director of HRPAC, said that saxophone quartets are very different from the more popular string quartets.
“Saxophone quartets are a totally different animal from the string quartet,” Sherman said. “I was really impressed by the excitement generated by their arrangements.”
Sherman was first introduced to the quartet at a previous UBS Atrium performance. He met Mellema while the saxophonist was in the audience.
“I met Ties a few years ago when he attended one of the Atrium performances,” Sherman said. “I did a little research on the group and was impressed by their virtuosic skill.” Although Mellema has been to the Atrium before, the baritone sax player said he is excited to return to the performance space with his quartet.
“We’re all looking forward to playing there,” Mellema said. “The venue attracts a great audience and there is a lot of room for passer-bys.”
Quality music in the community
In addition to welcoming great talent to the Weehawken waterfront, HRPAC also gives back to the arts community. Most of the artists that performed through the center have also visited community schools to give students a first hand musical experience.
“The students always react very positively to visiting artists,” Sherman said. “We’ve presented several groups to the student body at the high school and they’ve always made the musicians feel welcome.”
The Amstel Quartet will visit musical director Steven Spinosa’s class in a small setting, allowing budding musicians a chance for an up-close look at international musicians.
“I understand that there are twelve saxophone players in the Weehawken band,” Sherman said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of interest on the part of the students hearing these world-class players.”
What’s coming up
Although Sherman was unable to comment on upcoming performances in the series, HRPAC is sure to attract some of the world’s top performers to Weehawken in the future.
“The schedule is in the process of being developed,” Sherman said, “and will be announced on the HRPAC web site.” According to Sherman, the series will continue with approximately one concert per month through the spring.
For more information or to sign up for e-mail notifications of future concerts, visit the web site: www.hrpac.org. All performances for the UBS Atrium Series begin at 12:30 p.m. All concerts are free and open to the public.
Sean Allocca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org