In Total Admiration of the Amstel Quartet - Amstel Tracks - Excellentia Award
Sunday evening, 4th of July 2004. I’ve been listening to seven CD recordings today and have reviewed them. Some were all right, but there was nothing that struck my ear.
This should be the last CD on my list for tonight. I put it in my CD player with some expectations, as Luxembourg saxophonist Olivier Sliepen, who I highly appreciate, forms part of this quartet which recently won a chamber music competition in the United States. And then the unexpected happens: the eighth CD on that day had it all! It really impressed me and surprised me with such a generous musicality, that it was worth the Excellentia Award to me. It contains a great program, outstanding arrangements all written by the members themselves and that are not only adjusted to the saxophone, but also respect the original score. It contains music with bursting musicality played by a quartet that really makes chamber music and manages to acquire an ensemble sound that’s perfectly homogenous and balanced. How the sounds of the four saxophones are harmoniously unified as one, while leaving every instrument its individual voice, is absolutely fabulous!
The four musicians always serve the music itself with the purest respect: they don’t use it as a way of self-reflection, but as a medium of expression. Therefore, they reach the deepest and most sensitive emotions and a soulful fulfilment of outer form, like in Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, which really gets under your skin.
A new world of sound colours and effects is reached in the works of Philip Glass and Michael Nyman, that never gives us an impression of forced research, but rather of an endless musicality, a sense of sound and instrumental mastery that’s developed on such a high level that one can only speak about this quartet with the highest admiration.
Also their recordings of Bach, Beethoven and Franck confirm their impeccable ensemble playing and their feeling of total commitment to the music.
Phrasing, cantability, wonderful mellow attacks and transitions, as well as dynamic layers, tell us that these are highly talented musicians that share an unusual joy of the spiritualised, deeply beautiful sound, as well as a sheer endless musical imagination.