for Saxophone quartet: soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones
11 mins.

First performed on April 24th 2017 by the Laefer Quartet at St. John’s, Smith Square, London

Programme notes

Leapfrog lasts about eleven minutes, and is extremely physical, as its title suggests. A sax quartet consists of two pairs of instruments pitched a fifth apart (like a pair of legs), the upper pair pitched an octave above the lower; hence the piece’s title. Much of the music is made from overlapping canonic material harmonized in parallel fifths, with one pair of saxes leaping over the other. Towards the end there is a tiny Serenade loosely based on the tune from La forza del destino, and some equally tiny variations thereon. The piece ends with a modified recap of the opening – something I swore not to do, but ended up doing anyway: it felt right.

Leapfrog was commissioned by the Park Lane Group with funds provided by the RVW Trust, and is dedicated to John Woolf.

Giles Swayne 2017


The key work given by the Laefer Saxophone Quartet was the first performance of Giles Swayne’s Leapfrog (2017). This entertaining and extremely energetic eleven-minute piece had great fun with its basic material, consisting of overlapping canons harmonised in parallel fifths with one pair of saxes leaping over the other; hence the title. In the mix we heard a Serenade-like extract based on a theme from Verdi’s La forza del destino followed by some mini-variations. Haydn apart, bona fide wit is rare in music and practically unheard-of in contemporary music, but Giles Swayne achieves it in this delicious divertissement. The players seemed to enjoy the musical capers, safe in the knowledge that the humour was embedded within a carefully crafted score of substance.

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