Season Preview: Your guide to the arts in 2022

Formed in 2002 by four Sydney Conservatorium of Music students, Nexas Quartet has made its mark as one of Australia’s tightest, virtuosic ensembles. The quartet, made up of saxophonists Michael Duke, Andrew Smith, Nathan Henshaw and Jay Byrnes, has found success in both concerts and recordings. Now, entering its 20th anniversary year, Nexas Quartet has announced a new season of four concerts throughout the year, featuring a collection of works by classical and modern composers. 

Nexas Quartet

Nexas Quartet. Photo © Keith Saunders Photography.

“It’s time to celebrate our 20th anniversary year and to do so we are coming home to the Sydney Conservatorium,” said Nexas.

The season begins in March with Americana, inspired by American landscapes. The program begins with Dvořák’s String Quartet No 12, the ‘American’ quartet. Inspired by a summer vacation whilst working in New York, Dvořák’s famous American pieces draw upon traditional spiritual melodies and traditions, fused with his European ideas. The concert also includes American composer Jennifer Higdon’s Short Stories, a six-movement work written to showcase the virtuosity of the saxophone quartet.

In June, the second concert, Crossover, explores the saxophone’s role as a bridge between classical music and jazz.

“The saxophone came into existence as a classical instrument, but it was jazz music that has insured its place in history. Crossover features works by composers that fuse these two worlds together,” said Nexas. 

The program opens with Bob Mintzer’s Quartet No 1, originally commissioned by The Apollo Saxophone Quartet of Manchester, followed by Australian composer Graeme Jesse’s Saxophone Quartet, Carlos Alvardo’s Sunflower and the world premiere of a new commission by Sydney-based composer Jeremy Rose.

The third concert for 2022, Angels and Demons in October, will see the Quartet joined once again by acclaimed American harpist Emily Granger after their first collaboration in 2018. The program includes Ravel’s masterful Introduction et Allegro, Russell Howland’s Saxophone Quartet No 6 with Harp, Wijnand van Klaveren’s Songs with Words and Debussy’s Dance Sacrée et Danse Profane, arranged by Andrew Smith. The concert also features two world premieres – Australian composer Lyle Chan’s Gravity and Levity on the Sunbreathing Earth and Nexas member Michael Duke’s Angels and Demons.

“The saxophone has long been vilified as the bad boy of the musical instrument world, banned by both popes and fascists dictators alike as a symbol of debauchery and hedonism. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the wholly angelic harp, the instrument of Gabriel, Cupid and all things good. Put them together and the sparks fly producing a new and largely uncharted soundworld,” said Nexas.

The final concert of the year in December, Ghost Rails, takes a look at the history of saxophone quartet repertoire, starting with one of the landmarks of the genre, Alfred Desenclos Quatuor. The program also includes Thierry Escaich’s Le Bal and Australian composer Nicholas Vines’ Ghost Rails.

“[Ghost Rails is] a programmatic work full of contrasts and drama telling the story of the railways around Central Station, Nexus will take you on an unforgettable journey,” said the Quartet.

More information about Nexas Quartet’s 2022 season can be found here.