John Weinzweig, Divertimento No. 6

JOHN WEINZWEIG: Born in Toronto, March 11, 1913; now living in Toronto

“A multi-section structure of solo saxophone events colored by jazz inflections” was how the composer described his Divertimento No. 6, composed for solo saxophone and strings. In it, he incorporates many kinds of notation for the soloist: vibrato, gradual accelerando and ritardando, rapid repetition of the same note, chromatic murmurs, smorzato (fluctuations in volume produced by the jaw), key clicking (without tone), flutter tongue, slap tongue, and quarter tones. All in all, quite a fascinating work.

Weinzweig’s Divertimento series began in 1946 and topped out at twelve more than half a century later. The sixth dates from 1972 and was commissioned by Paul Brodie for the Third World Saxophone Congress in Toronto with the aid of a grant from the Canada Council. As Weinzweig had studied the saxophone in his youth (he also learned to play piano, violin, double bass, mandolin and tuba), he was well acquainted with its qualities and abilities. The composer acknowledged much influence from Stravinsky in this work, especially in a strong sense of rhythm and in orchestrating with clarity. The Divertimento also has a strong infusion of jazz idioms, “probably the kind of sound that came out of the virtuoso jazz players of the 1920s,” said Weinzweig. This highly rhythmic, single-movement work progresses through many moods, and incorporates many kinds of notation for the soloist: vibrato, gradual accelerando and ritardando, rapid repetition of the same note, chromatic murmurs, smorzato (fluctuations in volume produced by the jaw), key clicking (without tone), flutter tongue, slap tongue, and quarter tones.

A note in the score indicates that in this work, Weinzweig “directs his explorations towards the rhythmic interactions between soloist and ensemble. The result is a multi-section structure of solo saxophone events colored by jazz inflections. Its inner shapes include cadenzas and controlled improvisations in dialogue actions.”
Robert Markow

© 2010, Robert Markow

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