The Vienna Saxophone Quartet

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A member of the Sax Ring (see bottom of page)

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The Vienna Saxophone Quartet was founded in 1995 by amateur musicians who dwell in the vicinity of Vienna, Virginia. The repertoire of chamber music includes original compositions for saxophone quartet, transcriptions of classical music, light jazz, ragtime, and novelty music. The Quartet plays concerts monthly in various venues around the area of Washington, DC.

The quartet is available for chamber music concerts in small auditoriums, as well as for weddings, parties, festivals, church and promotional events. Please contact one of the members for scheduling a concert.


Members of the Saxophone Quartet are:
   Benjamin Kim, soprano saxophone
   Yasuko H. Mohler, alto saxophone
   John McNeil, tenor saxophone
   Robert L. Carroll, baritone saxophone

Read biographies of the members of the Vienna Sax Quartet

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View catalog of quartet chamber music

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Some Notes About the Saxophone

Many customary musical instruments evolved from similar instruments over a period of years or centuries. The saxophone, in contrast, was invented about 1840 (patented 1846) by a Belgian clarinetist and musical instrument maker, Antoine Joseph Sax (1814--94). "Adolphe" Sax intended to create a wind instrument that had both the power and projection of the brass family and the expressive ability and agility of the stringed instruments. The saxophone is actually most similar to the oboe, but is made of brass and has a single reed with a mouthpiece to create sound.

Of all the woodwind instruments, the sound produced by the saxophone is most akin to that of the human voice. It is remarkable that the same instrument can produce the moist, intimate, throaty sound associated with Hollywood love scenes, the martial clarion-call of a military band, the mellow ensemble sound of Glenn Miller, and the scream of a jazz or rock group. No other acoustical instrument, except perhaps the strings or the theater organ, has such a wide range of expressive ability.

Sax's original saxophone family had seven members: the sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, and contrabass. All are made today, but the sopranino and contrabass are not often seen. Instrument companies have sometimes made additional models; one example is the "C melody" saxophone (now found in pawn shops), which in pitch is between the tenor and the alto. The range of the instruments is about 2 1/2 octaves, but with overblowing and with altissimo fingering, the range may be extended to about 3 octaves for the soprano to about 5 octaves for the baritone.

Sax successfully persuaded the composers of his day to write orchestral music for the saxophone. Orchestral compositions using saxophones are too many to enumerate. Some composers were Richard Strauss (Sinfonia Domestica), Claude Debussy (Rhapsody), Igor Stravinsky (Ebony Concerto), and Heitor Villa-Lobos (Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra; Choros #3, #7, #10; Amazon Jungle, and more). Other well-known composers with works for saxophone include Georges Bizet, Anton Bruckner, J. F. A. Ibert, Vincent D'Indy, Sergey Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Ottorino Resphigi, and Camille Saint-Saens. But the two most important events that caused universal acceptance of the saxophone were the 19th-century decision of the French government (after months of parliamentary debate) to require French military bands to employ saxophones, and the embrace of the saxophone by popular music groups in America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

One of the first appearances of the saxophone in America (1870s) was in Patrick Gilmore's band, a touring wind group. Virtuso saxophonist Edouard Lefebre (1834-1911) performed in Gilmore's band. The saxophone soon became popular with both amateur and professional musicians. Community bands gradually adopted them, as well as many other musical groups. Saxophone quartets and larger ensembles were formed in many communities, and the latest popular music of the day was heard at home, in church, at civic affairs, and many other places. By the 1890s, saxophones were being made in the United States by the Conn and Buescher companies. Starting at the turn of the century, cylinder and disk recordings by virtuoso saxophonists such as H. Benne Henton (1867-1938) and Jean Moeremans, both of J. P. Sousa's band, and later soloist Rudy Wiedoeft (1893-1940) and the Six Brown Brothers band, fueled the popularity of saxophone music with the public. Well after the acceptance of the saxophone as a favorite instrument of popular music, starting in the 1920s saxophones began to find their way into jazz groups.

Today, the saxophone has become so popular and so recognizable an instrument that it's image is often used as an icon to represent jazz, popular, and modern music and musical events.

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Belgian 200-Franc Note Bears Likeness of Antoine Joseph Sax

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Rear of bank note

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Read a biography of Adolphe Sax by Léon Kochnitzky

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Hear the quartet play
"Le Petit Négre" by Claude Debussy, arranged by Marcel Mule
recorded in concert on 1999 December 3. MP3 file is 1.7 Megabytes.

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"Tango" from the Three Penny Opera by Kurt Weill, arranged by John Harle, recorded in concert. MP3 file is 2.9 Megabytes.

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"Beale Street Blues" by W. C. Handy, arranged by Jack Gale, recorded in concert. MP3 file is 2.9 Megabytes.

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"O Northern Star" by Steven Pollock, recorded in concert. MP3 file is 3.1 Megabytes.

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Links to Saxophone Quartets on the web

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Lisa Simpson and her baritone sax

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