The groundbreaking Apollo Saxophone Quartet has been at the forefront of the British contemporary music scene for over 25 years. The ensemble has made the largest single contribution to the repertoire for saxophone quartet in the UK, commissioning and premiering well over one hundred works, including significant works from Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Michael Torke, Michael Nyman, Graham Fitkin, Will Gregory, Dominic Muldowney, Keith Tippett, Django Bates, Barbara Thompson, Joby Talbot and many others.
Established in 1985 at the Royal Northern College of Music, the ensemble graduated with Distinction in the Professional Performance Diploma before going on to win many international competitions, culminating in First Prize and Outstanding Performance Award at the 1992 Tokyo International Chamber Music Competition. 1992 saw the release of Bow Out, the group’s debut CD, followed in 1994 by First & Foremost, which reached number three in the UK classical charts. As well as performing at leading venues and festivals across Europe, the ASQ undertook the first of eight tours to Japan, in addition to regular live broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and appearances on BBC TV.
The ASQ quickly established a reputation for excellence and versatility, undertaking many longstanding collaborations with artists as diverse as Michael Torke, Django Bates, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, poet Lemn Sissay, and pianist Joanna MacGregor. In 1998 the ASQ was commissioned by Phoenix Arts (Leicester) to compose music to accompany some extraordinary black and white silent films.
On the orchestral stage, the ASQ gave the UK Premiere of Tristan Keuris’ Concerto for Saxophone Quartet (1988) and Michael Nyman conducted the ASQ in a performance of his Concerto in Austria (2005). With Wind Band the ASQ has premiered works by John Casken (2004) and Bill Connor (2008), and has a longstanding collaboration with the Goldberg Ensemble, premiering commissions from Graham Fitkin, Barbara Thompson and Barry Guy.
The ASQ commissioned a series of works from some of the world’s most distinctive jazz composers, including Kenny Wheeler, Django Bates, Iain Ballamy, Eddie Parker, Julian Arguelles, Mike Gibbs and Bob Mintzer. 1998 saw the release of the CD Words and Pictures, featuring music from the film project alongside “The Four Seasons” with poet Lemn Sissay. In 2001 the ASQ released Works 4 Us, a CD documenting some of the group’s most significant commissions, and Short Cuts, showcasing new compositions by Portugese composers, was recorded in 2004, funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation. 2005 marked the release of the Three Quartets CD, featuring the music of Barbara Thompson.
The ASQ will release a 25th Anniversary CD of Apollo commissions in 2012, featuring works from Keith Tippett, Dinuk Wijeratne, Michael Ball and Bob Mintzer, continuing the rich legacy of high quality, ground breaking music that this unique, genre leading ensemble has brought into being. The ASQ has always thrived by creating the sound world in which it operates, always innovating, always leading, always moving on to the next project without looking back, and the next 25 years are set to continue in the same vein!