(by Peter Bates)
According to Merriam Webster, a tetrachord is a “diatonic series of four tones with an interval of a perfect fourth between the first and last.” But don’t bother looking for tetrachords in this mini-saxophone concerto. Sit back and relax as it evolves. It begins as a leisurely series of introductory statements in dialog with a dimly-lit nightclub-style piano. The soulful wailings of the sax recede as the orchestra enters, still keeping the piece in adagio tempo, but shimmering with tension. Beginning at about 3: 30, there is so much tension that you feel all hell is about to break loose. But it doesn’t. At 5:00 the simmering volcano dies down and the sax plays a series of staccato notes with the piano that evolve into an effusion of sentiment, as the orchestra enters again with flourishes, a variation on its first entrance. A freeform piano solo prepares for another variation on the duet. At about 9:00, the orchestral accompaniment gets edgier and more agitated, then surrenders to another calm interlude with the saxophone. Almost bi-polar in its mood instability, “Tetrachordal Variations” teeters on the edge of dissolution, but always finds it way back, ultimately to calm resolution.