The Riga Saxophone Quartet (RSQ) made its promising debut in 1992, marking the beginning of a new era for academic saxophone music in Latvia. The debut coincided with the beginnings of saxophone performance tuition at Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music (1991). Back then the ensemble consisted of different musicians; the current members have been together since the year 2013. The only remaining original member is the quartet’s founder – Artis Simanis.
The RSQ performs frequently not only at the concert halls, but also at schools and churches, palaces and receptions, exhibition openings, open-air venues, etc. The RSQ performances with their characteristically democratic style, unyielding artistic aspirations and refined timbre quality and professional skills have been recognized by audiences, critics and music specialists alike. By selecting wide-ranging repertoire the quartet has also made a considerable effort in breaking the stereotype of the saxophone as a purely jazz instrument – the ensemble performs transcriptions of classical works (J.S. Bach, G. Gabrieli, G.F. Handel, and B. Marcello), original 20th and 21st century works (Andrew Poppy, Gabriel Jackson, Carleton Macy, Joe Cutler, Perry Goldstein, etc.), repertoire associated with the lyrical melodies and engaging rhythms of Latin American music as well as original compositions and arrangements of world famous jazz composers (G. Gershwin, D. Gilespy, G. Gershwin, D. Gillespie, D. Ellington, Ph. Woods, M. Mower and others).
An important part of the RSQ’s repertoire consists of works by Latvian composers written specifically for this ensemble by Rihards Dubra, Ilze Arne, Dace Aperāne, Georgs Pelēcis, Alvils Altmanis, Selga Mence, Vineta Līce, Kārlis Lācis, Pēteris Butāns, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Nick Gotham, Līga Celma, Valdis Muktupāvels, Jēkabs Nīmanis, Raimonds Tiguls, Mārīte Dombrovska and Rihards Zaļupe. The RSQ has collaborated with the State Academic Choir Latvija, Latvian Radio Choir, youth choir Kamēr…, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, chamber orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga, Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Riga. Programmes have been performed with pianists Kārlis Lācis, Jānis Maļeckis, Herta Hansena, singers Ieva Parša, Gunta Gelgote, Kristīne Gailīte, organ player Kristīne Adamaite, kokle player Laima Jansone, kokle player and singer Valdis Muktupāvels, accordion player Savva Zihs as well as saxophonists Jean-Pierre Baraglioli (France), Nobuya Sugawa (Japan), Maki Kasai (Japan), Chris Beaty (USA) and Philippe Geiss (France).
During almost twenty years of existence the quartet has performed in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Canada, China, USA, France, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Israel, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Belorussia and India. It has participated in such internationally acclaimed music festivals as Probaltica (Poland), Jazz Kaar (Estonia), Rainbow Jazz (Estonia), Upbeat (Norway and Sweden), the Baltic Cultural Festival (Finland), Étonnante Lettonie (France), The 7th Raasarang World Flute Festival (India) and the World Saxophone Congress (in Montreal, Ljubljana, St. Andrews and Strasbourg). The RSQ has represented the capital of Latvia in Riga Culture Days in Warsaw, Porto, Lübeck, Moscow and Prague. In 1999 for its active concert life and performances of high artistic quality the Riga Saxophone Quartet received the Latvian Great Music Award – the highest form of recognition in Latvian music. The RSQ is the central axis of the International Saxophone Music Festival SAXOPHONIA that takes place biennially in Latvian concert halls since 1999.