Williams: Quartet for Saxophones

The Quartet displays a wide range of influences, from the “sound clouds” of Ligeti, the “grooves” of Minimalism and Post-minimalism, to the emotionalism of Neo- Romanticism. The work is in an arch form, with the first movement related to the last, the second to the sixth, and so on. Yet, instead of each pair of movements sharing or providing variations on melodic material, they are images “through a mirror darkly” of the other. For example, the explosive opening followed by quiet subtone runs in the first movement are reflected in the seventh as loud clarion calls following a similar opening.

The second movement presents a calming three-note theme with variations, while the sixth movement presents the same trichord (which is found throughout the work) in an obscured manner inspired by Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music. Movement IV serves as the “keystone” movement, having no pair, it is unique from the rest of the piece: a loud and quick sixteen measures, presenting dissonant runs. Sandwiched between the emotionalism of movements III and V, IV is a confusing blur serving as the mirror of the arch form.