A new version of “Aurum Tetra” received its world premiere during a performance by The Oakland Symphony Orchestra (OSO) in Varner Hall on Sunday, Nov. 4. The performance featured students and faculty from Oakland University.
Jeffrey Heisler (Oakland University), Ian Jeffress (Western Carolina University), Matthew Younglove (Wayne State University) and Adam Estess (University of Mississippi) make up The Assembly Saxophone Quartet.
Heisler is a professor of music at OU and plays soprano saxophone.
“The Assembly Quartet commissioned award winning composer, Benjamin Taylor (from Indiana University) to write an adaptation of an existing string quartet and orchestra work for saxophone quartet and orchestra,” he said.
Taylor, who composed the new version of “Aurum Tetra,” has an award winning catalogue of over 100 works spanning across all genres.
“‘Aurum Tetra’ is latin for ‘Golden Four’ and has multiple meanings, according to the composer,” Heisler said. “The Concerto casts the solo saxophone quartet in the gilded spotlight with an eclectic array of musical styles that the composer [Benjamin Taylor] is known for — classicism, rock, jazz, funk and contemporary avant-garde.”
Brant Ford is a sophomore saxophone performance major at OU studying with Heisler. He performed “Concerto for Alto Saxophone in E-flat major, Op. 109″ by Alexander Glazunov.
Ford is an award-winning student of Heisler’s. He is the co-winner of the 2017–2018 Oakland Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. Last week, he won first place at the 2018 American Single Reed Summit Saxophone Competition.
“Brant Ford displays musical maturity beyond his years,” Heisler said. “I believe he has what it takes to become an elite artist in our field.”
In addition, the orchestra performed “Sensemaya” by Silvestre Revueltas and “Death and Transfiguration” by Richard Strauss, which Gregory Cunningham, music director and conductor of the OSO, calls “emotionally charged.”
Cunningham has worked with the orchestra for 22 years. He teaches undergraduate and graduate coursework in instrumental conducting.
“The orchestra membership for each concert remains somewhat fluid, being determined by the needs of each composition,” he said. “However, one of the most notable changes to the orchestra’s personnel since I arrived is that now over 50 percent of the performers have direct affiliation with Oakland University.”
Performers in the orchestra include current OU students and faculty, alumni from the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and affiliated OU orchestral mentors.
The Oakland Symphony Orchestra performs the majority of its concerts in Varner Hall. The orchestra has been in existence for four decades and is described by Cunningham as OU’s “hidden treasure.”
Tickets can be purchased for future orchestra events at startickets.com or in Varner Hall. Students were able to purchase tickets for Sunday’s concert for $12 and general admission tickets were $22. The OSO holds its final annual performance of the 2018–2019 performance year at Orchestra Hall in Detroit. The performance is a collaboration with the Oakland University Symphony Chorus.
“This program as a whole provides listeners with a wide range of repertoire that was programmed to showcase the orchestra’s emotional range and technical virtuosity,” Cunningham said.