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Fugue and Two Chorales of J. S. Bach (sax quintet)

Same piece for brass quintet, string orchestra, or SSATB choir.

J. S. Bach did some truly amazing things in his lifetime, not the least of which was writing a significant number of motets for use throughout the church year. These motets were typically for four-part choir, sometimes four-part-plus-four-part double choir, and sometimes five-part choir. These were generally accompanied by a small string orchestra or by organ, but since all the accompaniment typically did was double the vocal parts, these pieces are equally effective, some would say more effective, when sung unaccompanied.

What has happened here is to take a couple of small sections of Bach's best-known five-part motet, Jesu Meine Freude, BWV 227, and arrange them for saxophone quintet.

Bach's work was for a choir with two soprano sections, alto, tenor and bass. The saxophone quintet, on the other hand has a soprano, two altos, tenor, and baritone. Arranging this piece for sax quintet required considerable thought about how to transpose the work to make it playable and reduce the amount of part surgery required to keep it sounding true to the original.

The scored configuration of one soprano, two altos, one tenor, and one baritone sax could be slightly altered. Soprano sax is written in Bb so clarinet is an obvious potential substitute. A third alto sax part is also provided to substitute for the soprano sax, though the part is a bit high, but not unplayable.

This piece is not for the faint of heart, and if your browser is equipped to play the midi sample, you will hear why. The fugue has numerous passages in all parts of six-to-eight-count sixteenth-note runs at about 70 beats per minute. As you might expect, Bach has these runs reversing direction and breaking into interval jumps all over the place. They are playable by strong players on all of the instruments named, but considerable rehearsal and practice time will be required to clean up the piece and develop the ensemble needed to stay together.

The chorales are much easier to play, but they would probably not work especially well as a standalone concert piece without the fugue.

MP3 sound sample: entire piece (synthesizer/midi).



FUGUE AND TWO CHORALES OF J. S. BACH, arranged for sax quintet by Tom Kirkland, comes in a pdf file of 1488K, with a eight-page score, five two-page parts, a two-page alternate part, and a license page, twenty-one pages in all. Performance time should be about 4:20.


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Last update: 8 February 2017