In the 30 years since the Apollo Saxophone Quartet was founded, it has commissioned and premiered well over one hundred works, many of which are now considered core repertoire and are performed by saxophone quartets worldwide. This includes significant works from Richard Rodney Bennett, Michael Torke, Michael Nyman, Graham Fitkin, Will Gregory, Dominic Muldowney, Keith Tippett, Django Bates, Barbara Thompson and Joby Talbot, to name but a few. The ASQ has also commissioned a series of works from Kenny Wheeler, Iain Ballamy, Eddie Parker, Julian Arguelles, Mike Gibbs and Bob Mintzer, some of the most distinctive jazz composers.
The ASQ was the first ensemble to graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music with Distinction in the college’s Professional Performance Diploma, before going on to achieve success in the Royal Over-Seas League Competition, Tunnell Trust Young Artists Scheme and the Erasmus Concours in Holland, culminating in First Prize and Outstanding Performance Award at the 1992 Tokyo International Chamber Music Competition. The Quartet was also invited to join Live Music Now, in which it was a major contributor for almost ten years.
1992 saw the release of Bow Out, the group’s début CD, followed in 1994 by First & Foremost which reached number three in the UK classical charts. As well as performing throughout 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 performs regularly at a number of UK festivals, including Brighton, Vale of Glamorgan, Norfolk & Norwich, Cheltenham, Warwick & Leamington, Huddersfield and the Southbank Centre’s ‘State of the Nation’ in addition to giving a number of world première performances at the Purcell Room and performing at the Wigmore Hall.
Many long-standing collaborations have been undertaken with artists as diverse as Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, poet Lemn Sissay and pianist Joanna MacGregor. In 1998 the ASQ was commissioned by Phoenix Arts, Leicester, to compose an hour-long set of scores that would accompany some extraordinary black and white silent films, subsequently released on the CD Words and Pictures alongside The Four Seasons with Lemn Sissay.
In 2001 the ASQ released Works 4 Us, a CD that documented some of the group's most significant commissions to date, closely following releases of two discs by composers Django Bates and Michael Torke, each featuring the ASQ. 2005 marked the release of the Three Quartets CD, featuring the music of Barbara Thompson. The group also collaborated on a large-scale project with pianist and composer Keith Tippett and the BBC Singers. It also continues a long relationship with the Colourscape Festival, performing music by Barry Guy (2007), Nye Parry (2009) and Guy/Parry (2014) in this extraordinary and unique interactive performance space. The Quartet toured South Africa in spring 2014 as well as presenting concerts across the UK to coincide with the launch of its latest CD of commissions featuring works from Keith Tippett, Dinuk Wijeratne, Michael Ball, Andrew Keeling and Kenny Wheeler.
The Apollo Saxophone Quartet has previously visited the Lake District Summer Music festival in 1989 and 1999.
*See the panel on the right for details of the ensemble's concert in the 2015 LDSM festival.