Saxofoon- en klarinettenkwartet, opus 31 en 31bis (score and parts, first print)
Quartet for saxophone and clarinet, opus 31 and 31bis
Roland Coryn started his music education at the Municipal Academy of Music, Drama and Dance in Harelbeke. He then moved on to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Ghent, where he earned First Prizes for solfège and fugue (Julien Mestdagh), piano (Alex de Vries), harmony (Georges Lonque), counterpoint (Rudolf Vansteenbrugge) and composition (Jean Decadt). At the conservatory, he was also awarded the Higher Diploma for viola (Alphonse Volleman) and chamber music (Arie van de Moortel). As a pianist, Roland Coryn was active in the Flemish Piano Quartet for many years; in the Belgian Chamber Orchestra he played the viola from 1964 to 1977. For this orchestra he composed Triptiek [Triptych], a dixtuor for flute, oboe and eight strings, which landed him the Jef Van Hoof Prize in 1974. Only a year before, Coryn had become a laureate of the Tenuto competition with Quattro movimenti for orchestra and he had written the set piece Fantasia for clarinet and piano, commissioned by the organisation of the Tenuto competition. In 1979, he was asked again to write set pieces for this competition, this time for the strings: Improvisations I, II and III for violin, viola and violoncello respectively, and Thoughts on a Theme for double bass solo. Other chamber music works by him are the Saxophone Quartet, the Clarinet Quartet, Sonatine for two clarinets, Sonata for two pianos, Sonata for viola (or cello) and piano, 13 Miniaturen for flute and string quartet and Octuor for four woodwinds and four strings. At the request of the Belgian Radio and TV (BRT, Channel 3, at that time the Flemish classical music station), Coryn wrote the Sonata for Orchestra. In addition to this, he wrote many other orchestral works such as Vioolconcerto, Due Pitture for orchestra (which also appeared in a version for symphonic wind orchestra), Concerto grosso for string orchestra, Concerto per Banda, Tre Pezzi for string orchestra, Concerto for symphonic wind orchestra and Five Concert Preludes for oboe solo and symphonic wind orchestra.
Roland Coryn was affiliated with the Academies of Music in Harelbeke and Izegem as a teacher of piano, viola and ensemble. At the Royal Conservatory of Ghent, he taught composition to, among others, Lucien Posman, Octaaf Van Geert, Bernard Baert, Willy Soenen, Rudi Tas, Dirk Blockeel and Mieke Van Haute. In Ghent, he also led The New Conservatory Ensemble. In 1977, Roland Coryn was appointed director of the Municipal Conservatory of Ostend. After two years he moved on from Ostend to become director of the Municipal Academy of Music in Harelbeke. He retired in 1996 wanting to dedicate himself completely to composing. Since 1993, he has been a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, as well as a musical adviser and co-organiser of the Music Biennale and of the International Composition Contest of the city of Harelbeke. In addition to the prizes mentioned before, Roland Coryn was awarded the Koopal Prize in 1986 for his oeuvre in the field of chamber music and in 1999 he received the Visser-Neerlandia Prize for his entire oeuvre. In that same year, he was asked by Johan Duijck to write a work for mixed choir and renaissance instruments for the Madrigal Choir in Ghent: Deux mille regretz. Afterwards followed a series of a cappella choral works set to texts by Emily Dickinson, William Blake and Maria Vasalis. Furthermore, Roland Coryn wrote the oratorio Opus: Mens [Opus: Human Being] for soprano, baritone, mixed choir and instrumental ensemble, as well as the mass Winds of Dawn – Missa da Pacem for soprano, tenor, baritone, mixed choir, youth choir and orchestra.
The composer wrote the following about his work:
“This chamber music piece was composed at the request of The Brussels Saxophone Quartet with as the main initiator my former colleague, alto saxophonist Willy Demey. The members of this chamber music ensemble have performed this piece successfully on multiple occasions and during countless of their concerts. When my son Frank wanted to conclude his clarinet and chamber music studies with a higher degree, he asked me whether I would transcribe this piece for four clarinets. I did not hesitate and the composition ended up in my work list as opus 31bis. The transcription was extremely simple, because I didn’t have to change a single note. This version is identical to the original when it comes to the notes.
The question I keep getting is: which version do you prefer? I have to reply with a mixed answer. In 1984, when the composition was performed for the first time, the saxophone players had the habit of vibrating excessively, like jazz musicians do. This really bothered me, because that way of playing did not correspond with the sound I had in my mind. I actually wanted to hear pure thirds and sixths. Afterwards, other saxophone ensembles that performed the piece, have approached the vibrato completely differently, which was obviously more what I had imagined. When performed by four clarinets the pure sound I wanted to created emerged automatically. So my response is this: when the vibrato is approached carefully, the choice doesn’t matter to me.
The quartet for saxophone is composed as follows: soprano saxophone in B flat, alto saxophone in E flat, tenor saxophone in B flat and baritone saxophone in B flat. The quartet for clarinets: piccolo clarinet in E flat, clarinet in B flat, alto clarinet in E flat and bass clarinet in B flat.
Even though the composition consists of three parts, they cannot be performed separately without losing the soul of the whole. The first part, Grave ma non troppo lento, is conceived as an introduction. The second and main part is written in the form of a rondo and the tempo indication is Molto vivo. Contrary to the tradition, the refrain is not repeated literally here, but in slightly different ways, alternated by a buildup of episodes. The third part is not a finale in the original meaning of the word, but is composed as a departure from the used material. The question whether I will end here remains unanswered. Not to me, because afterwards I have used the same material again, be it in a very different manner. The piece starts with a choral which can only be heard in the third part of its four-part arrangement. The composition is written specifically to end with the material or the idea I started from.
When conceptualizing this piece, as a former violist, I drew inspiration from the 1946 Lachrimae op. 48 for viola and strings by Benjamin Britten. In his piece, he builds a series of variations around a theme by John Dowland, which he lets us hear only as a finale.”
Jan Dewilde & Roland Coryn
This score is published in cooperation with the Centre for the Study of Flemish Music (www.svm.be)
Read full preface in Flemish > HERE