Faustus Suite for saxophone, guitar and piano by American composer John Plant
William Chien: Alto Saxophone
Stefan Skrilecz: Guitar
Kate Kang: Piano
Program Notes from composer:
The original version of this work, Faustus: A SaxOpera, for alto saxophone and large wind ensemble, was commissioned by World-Wide Concurrent Premieres and Commissioning Fund, and received its first performance in Boston on October 6, 2016, with Jennifer Bill as soloist and the Boston University Wind Ensemble conducted by David J. Martins. Tristan de Borba, who gave the Canadian premiere of the full version on February 10, 2017, commissioned a chamber version for saxophone, harp and piano, which he presented at a conference of the North American Saxophone Alliance on February 18. The present version, a reimagining of Acts I, II and IV of the SaxOpera for saxophone, guitar, and piano, was composed at the request of William Chien and Stefan Skrilecz, for performance at the World Saxophone Congress in Croatia, in the summer of 2018.
The work is inspired by Gertrude Stein’s magnificent libretto on the Faust myth, ‘Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights». The saxophone personifies and brings life to the principal characters, delineating the individuality of each by stylistic means, while the guitar and piano establish the emotional and physical atmosphere of the Steinian world. At certain passages, the music articulates the precise rhythm of Stein’s prose. It is not necessary to know the narrative of the SaxOpera to follow and enjoy the music, any more than it is for Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night, or Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel. But in each case the story adds an extra imaginative dimension. My intention is to imbue the work with an authentically operaMc idiom, together with the theatrical intensity inherent in the form: hence the designation: SaxOpera.
I have been obsessed with Stein’s text for many years; I used it as the basis for a dance piece in 1980, and a chamber opera with piano in 1988. The music (apart from a few moMvic germs) is quite new; I see Gertrude Stein’s masterpiece with new eyes (and ears) after many decades of marinating!