Zagreb Saxophone Quartet, with Eugene Rousseau
Founding members of the Zagreb Saxophone Quartet are: Dragan Sremec (soprano saxophone), Goran Mercep (alto saxophone), Sasa Nestorovic (tenor saxophone), and Matjaz Drevensek (baritone saxophone). They are four graduates of the Zagreb Academy of Music (Croatia)—in the class of Professor Josip Nochta—who joined together in 1989 and still remain as original members of the group after nearly a quarter-century.
Both as an ensemble and as soloists, the members of the quartet have been awarded a number of awards, notably “Milka Trnina,” “Judita,” “Darko Lukić,” “Dragan Gurtl,” the Croatian Composers Society Award, the University of Zagreb Award, the Jazz Fair Award, three Porin Awards (Croatian discography award) and several first prizes at competitions in the former Yugoslavia.
They have performed in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and USA. They have worked with the Zagreb Philharmonic, the Croatian Radio Television Symphony Orchestra, the Zagreb Soloists, the Slovenian Philharmonic, the Slovenian Radio Television Symphony Orchestra, the Croatian Radio Television Big Band, the Croatian Army Symphony Wind Orchestra, and the Croatian Navy Orchestra, playing under the baton of distinguished conductors like Hans Graf, Pavle Despalj, Marko Letonja, Kazushi Ono, Vjekoslav Sutej, and others. Renowned ensembles and soloists often appear as guests at their concerts, including the Slovenian Brass Quintet, composer Miljenko Prohaska, and the famous saxophonist Eugene Rousseau.
They have given outstanding performances, highly acclaimed both by critics and audiences, at Dubrovnik Summer Festival, Split Summer Festival, 10th and 11th World Saxophone Congress, Zagreb Music Biennale, Ljubljana Summer Festival, Europhonia in Zagreb, Musicora in Paris, and Biennale de la Création Musicale et Chorégraphique de l’Essone in Orsay.
Their repertoire includes pieces originally written for saxophone quartet, as well as transcriptions and arrangements of pieces by various composers belonging to different periods and styles, ranging from the baroque (Bach, Purcell) to the twentieth century (Piazzolla, Glass, Gershwin). In addition to this, the ensemble’s top-notch performances have inspired numerous Croatian and foreign composers to dedicate their pieces to them.
EUGENE ROUSSEAU has performed across North America and on five continents since his Carnegie Hall debut. The legendary saxophonist Marcel Mule described Rousseau as “a brilliant saxophonist and distinguished artist,” and critics the world over have echoed Mule’s praise.
Rousseau’s artistry has inspired many “firsts.” He gave the first solo saxophone recitals in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, and Amsterdam. He has given a yearly master course at the prestigious Mozarteum in Salzburg during 1991-2001, marking the first time that the saxophone was included at that institution. He has premiered numerous works written for him, including the Partita by Juan Orrego-Salas (with the Haydn Trio of Vienna), Jindřich Feld’s Sonata for alto saxophone and piano, Feld’s Concerto for saxophones and orchestra, Bernhard Heiden’s Fantasia Concertante for alto saxophone and winds, Hear Again in Memory by Frederick Fox, Don Freund’s Skyscrapings for alto saxophone and piano, and Concertos by Libby Larsen, Claude Baker, and David DeBoor Canfield.
Rousseau has appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin, the Pan-American Festival Orchestra under Lukas Foss, the Indianapolis Symphony under Raymond Leppard and Philippe Entremont, the BBC Orchestra in London, the Janácek Philharmonic (Czech Republic), the Prague Symphony, the Kansai Philharmonic (Osaka), the Santiago Philharmonic (Chile), and recitals and master classes throughout the world on a variety of topics related to his instrument. His solo performances include appearances with the U.S. Army Band at Kennedy Center, the Budapest Strings in Hungary, and the Tokyo Bach Band, as well as the Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Festival in Japan.
The Chicago-born Rousseau’s service to the saxophone community is of long standing. Since 1972, he has been the Yamaha Corporation’s chief consultant for saxophone research, contributing to the development of acoustic improvements in saxophones and mouthpieces. In 1985, he recorded a video program for Yamaha, Steps to Excellence. Rousseau co-founded the World Saxophone Congress in 1969 and has been President of both the North American Saxophone Alliance (1979-80) and the Comité International du Saxophone (1982-85). In May 1998, he was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus by the University of Iowa, at which institution he earned the Ph.D. degree, his principal teacher being Himie Voxman. He holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Music at Indiana University, having served on the IU faculty from 1964 to 2000. Dr. Rousseau joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota School of Music in fall 2000. In 1993, Eugene Rousseau was designated an honorary faculty member of the Prague Conservatory. In 2003, he and the University of Minnesota School of Music hosted the 13th World Saxophone Congress Convention.
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