On 9 March Nexas Quartet performed Matthew Hindson’s Scenes from Romeo & Juliet at the Orange Chamber Music Festival in New South Wales. The 25-minute suite for saxophone quartet, written for the group, was commissioned by Father Arthur Bridge for Ars Musica Australis and received its world premiere at the Glebe Justice Centre, Glebe, in May 2016.

The suite came from Nexas’ 2014 collaboration with Hindson and his (then) student Cyrus Meurant, together creating the ballet Romeo & Juliet for the National College of Dance and its Junior Academy; Hindson discusses the creation of their score here. Nexas were so taken with the music they asked Hindson to turn it into a suite, which is cast in six movements tracing the contours of the drama; it includes a smouldering love scene, vivid duel, and the star-crossed lovers’ fateful end. Hindson’s music characteristically mixes contemporary dance responses with Elizabethan forms in inimitable blend of genres and traditions.

The Nexas Quartet recorded the work for their 2016 album Current. They gave the European premiere at the World Saxophone Congress in 2018 at the Zagreb Academy of Music, Croatia, and have also performed the work at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in 2017 and the Melbourne Recital Centre. Scenes from Romeo & Juliet received its US premiere from the Frost Saxophone Quartet at the University of Miami in 2019.

On 10 March 2024 Nexas Quartet also performed Carl Vine’s saxophone quartet Sawtooth at the festival. The performance takes place at restaurant TONIC as part of an imaginative pairing of music and food from chef Tony Worland. They premiered the 10-minute piece, Vine’s first for the saxophone family, on 10 November 2023 at The Neilson, Pier 2/3, Sydney most recently took it to the Bowral Autumn Music Festival (22 March).

The title is taken from the ‘sawtooth’ waveform produced by the instrument, which informs various aspects of the piece. The shape is that of a gentle undulation is one direction, and a sharp, acute one in the other – “one that can cut steel”, as Vine puts it. “The sound is at once rough and smooth”, he notes, “and I wanted to dig into both ends of that tactile spectrum, from smooth subtlety through to gruff impactful energy.”

The 10-minute piece opens accordingly with an ebbing, undulating figure, before more dynamic melodic shapes begin to emerge from the homophonic writing, and the texture grows more complex; the four instruments come back together for a jagged, percussive sequence in 7/8. As it continues, the piece takes the rough with the smooth in alternating sections of spiky, dancelike material with cantabile solos for each instrument, starting with baritone saxophone.