For many concert saxophone enthusiasts, John Mackey's Concerto for Soprano Saxophone represents the greatest American concerto written since Barber's Violin Concerto of 1939. Just as violin pedagogue Albert Meiff stated before the premier of the Barber Concerto, "the technical embellishments (of the piece) are very far from the requirements of a modern violinist", it is Mackey's hope that over time his own Concerto proves to be one of the most technically difficult pieces ever written for the saxophone. Following are some of his thoughts on the piece:
To me, the saxophone is a kind of hybrid instrument; it's essentially a brass instrument with a woodwind reed on it. Instead of valves like a brass instrument has, the sax has keys like a woodwind.... So, I had an instrument made of three materials: felt (the pads of the keys), metal (the body), and wood (the reed). This realization gave me the central idea for the piece: a multi-movement work with the inner movements called Felt, Metal, and Wood, and with instrumentation chosen to essentially match those materials for each movement. The outer movements would be scored for the entire ensemble.
The piece starts with "Prelude," a very brief overture to the concerto, with material that foreshadows each of the movements to come. If you hear something you like in the "Prelude," you'll probably hear it more developed in the following movements. (Conversely, if you hear absolutely nothing you like in the "Prelude," you may be in for a long night.)
Movement two is "Felt." This movement is a study of the keys of the instrument, so it includes lots of runs (requiring quick fingers), lots of pitch bending (to show what different pitches the sax can produce with minimal movement of the fingers), and a bit of alternate fingering. On the saxophone, the player can play the same pitch by using different combinations of keys, and each fingering combination results in a slightly different color. In this movement, you'll hear repeated notes that are accomplished with changing fingerings, so the color will shift from note to note, even as the pitch stays the same. The other question – besides "what is a sax made of" – that I wanted to consider when writing the concerto was, "what does a sax do?" Movement 2, "Felt," answers that question with, "well, the sax can play some weird sounds." With that pitch bending and crazy fingering, it's a peculiar five minutes.
Movement three, "Metal," answers that same question with, "the sax can play high and pretty." This movement, scored primarily for metal percussion and brass, is a calm, lyrical contrast to the weirdness that preceded it.
It seemed silly to write a sax concerto and not deal with the fact that the sax is often heard simply playing a song in an intimate setting – say, at a jazz club. Movement four, "Wood," is really just that: a simple song. The scoring here is, as you'd expect, woodwinds (including flutes, which aren't technically made of wood anymore), double bass, harp, piano, marimba, and – as in every movement – the sax section. The piece of mine that led to the commission of the sax concerto was a piece called "Redline Tango," and specifically, the soprano sax solo that anchors that work. To acknowledge that, this movement, yes, is a tango.
Finally we reach the "Finale." First, just a little background. My teacher in college was a composer named John Corigliano. Before I ever studied with him, one of my favorite pieces was his Clarinet Concerto. It's not just a spectacular piece, but it's easily (to me, at least) one of the greatest wind concertos ever written. When I got this commission, Corigliano's concerto cast a pretty intense shadow over me. How could I possibly write a concerto anywhere near the quality of that work?
Well, I couldn't – so I stole his. "Finale" starts with a nearly direct quote of John Corigliano's Clarinet Concerto. In order to make it as meta as possible, my quote is in fact a quote of a quote. I'm quoting the Corigliano, which was, in these 6 bars, quoting a work by 16th century composer Giovanni Gabrieli, "Sonata Pian e Forte." After my little tribute to my teacher, the solo part takes off for roughly four minutes of non-stop virtuosity. Here my answer to the question "what does a sax do?" was simply, "well, the sax can play some monster-difficult stuff."
This recording was completed during two days in 2009 while Roberts was Principal Saxophonist and National Tour Soloist with the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, DC
Originally composed for flute, clarinet and piano, Techno-Parade is made up of one
movement with a continuous beat from beginning to end. Two incisive motives swirl
and clink together giving the piece a festive, but also disturbing character. The wails
of the clarinet and the obsessive patterns of the piano try to replicate the raw energy
of techno music. In the middle of the piece, the pianist and his page turner chase
after the piano rhythms with a wire brush and exactly 15 sheets of paper (placed on the strings inside the piano), accompanied by the distorted sounds of the saxophone (rather like the tone of a side drum) and the glissandi of the clarinet. After this percussive "pause", the three instruments are pulled into a rhythmic trance and the piece ends in a frenzied tempo.
Guillaume Connesson studied piano, music theory, music history and choir conducting at the Conservatoire National de Région in Boulogne-Billancourt, At the Conservatoire National de Région of Paris, he studied orchestral conducting with Dominique Rouits and orchestration with Alain Louvier.
From 2001 to 2003, Conneson was Composer-in-Residence at the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, for which he wrote the vocal symphony Liturgies de l'ombre and the symphonic poem L'appel au feu. He is currently composer for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and his music has been played by American and English orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the Houston Symphony Orchestra. In 2009 he was appointed Composer-in-Residence at Orchestre de Pau, Pays de Béarn.
Connesson teaches orchestration at the Conservatoire National d'Aubervilliers-la Courneuve, and is published by Éditions Billaudot.
Composed for the tenth anniversary of the Festival de l'Empéri, Conneson dedicates
Techno-Parade to its three creators: Eric Le Sage, Paul Meyer and Emmanuel Pahud.
Jules Demersseman was born in 1833 in Hondschoote, Département Nord, France, near the Belgian border. At age 11 he was a flute student of Jean-Louis Tulou at the Conservatoire de Paris, winning the first prize at the age of twelve and quickly becoming famous as a virtuoso. He was always considered to be a "different flutist" however, since he chose not to play the modern transverse flute designed by Theobald Böhm which had just been introduced into France. Demersseman was only 33 when he died in Paris, presumably from tuberculosis.
Although he wrote numerous works for the flute, Demersseman was also one of the first French composers to write music for the saxophone, a brand new instrument at the time. In 1864, with the instrument still virtually unknown, he wrote Fantasie Sur un Theme Original. As it was only the third piece ever written for the saxophone, the high technical facility called for in the work made it all the more surprising at the time.
Female American composer Amy Marcy Cheney – born in 1867, twenty years after the invention of the saxophone – was on the way to becoming one of the outstanding pianists of the nineteenth century. But at 19 years old she met and married Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a Boston surgeon. As was fitting with the times, Dr. Beach apparently felt it would be unseemly for a married woman to perform in public. Amy Beach turned from performance to composition and signed her works "Mrs. H.H.A. Beach." In the 25 years between her marriage and her husband's death she produced an astonishing number of well-respected and mostly intimate works. Ironically, Amy Beach long outlived her husband, dying in 1944.
Romance is typical of Amy Beach's numerous works for several instruments – written in a romantic style that was fashionable among her American colleagues including Arthur Foote, George Chadwick, Edward MacDowell, and Horatio Parker. These four composers received their musical training in Germany and strongly show the influence of Brahms and Joachim Raaf, who taught several young American composers. While that influence was often criticized at the time for being too "Germanic," the music of Foote, Chadwick, and Beach today definitely begins to show a truly American character – a small but bold step toward the music of Charles Ives and Aaron Copland.
This version of Romance was edited for saxophone by Roberts and is published by Dorn Publications.
Originally written for and recorded by Northwestern University's Timothy McAllister, Glint (2007) is five minutes of nonstop energy and relentless drive.
As a young musician Roshanne Etezady studied piano and flute, developing an interest in many different styles of music, from the musicals of Steven Sondheim to the 1980's power ballads and Europop of her teenage years. Since then, Etezady's works have been commissioned by the Albany Symphony, Dartmouth Symphony, eighth blackbird, Music at the Anthology, and the PRISM Saxophone Quartet. She has been a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Performers and ensembles including Rêlache, Amadinda Percussion Ensemble, Ensemble De Ereprijs, and the Dogs of Desire have performed Etezady's music throughout the United States and Europe. Roshanne Etezady's music has earned recognition from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Korean Society of 21st Century Music, the Jacob K. Javits Foundation, Meet the Composer, and ASCAP.
An active teacher, Etezady has taught at the Interlochen Arts Camp, Yale University, Saint Mary's College, and the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. She has given masterclasses at Holy Cross College, the Juilliard School, and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.
Etezady holds academic degrees from Northwestern University and Yale University, and she has worked intensively with numerous composers, including William Bolcom, Martin Bresnick, Michael Daugherty, and Ned Rorem. She completed her doctorate at the University of Michigan in March, 2005.
Crazy Logic for alto saxophone and piano was composed in 2006 at the invitation of saxophonist Barry Cockcroft and pianist Adam Pinto (the RompDuo) for a premiere performance at the 2006 Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, VIC, Australia. In composing the work, Orlovich makes use of musical ideas of a mostly intense and driving nature. His melodic lines comprise semiquavers which twist, scurry, and traverse up, down and around the musical staves at a great pace. Both the saxophone and the piano often play in unison or at the octave, lending added urgency and directness to the music.
While a softer, more reflective mood is revealed at the heart of the work, it is the energetic music with its chromatic kinks, jagged contours and wide leaps that elicits, for Orlovich, the 'crazy' mood alluded to in the work's title. In stitching his 'crazy' music together, he aims to give the work a certain logic by virtue of balanced phrasing and fluent transitions between its various sections.
Matthew Orlovich works as a freelance composer, based in Sydney, Australia. Born in 1970, Orlovich studied composition at the University of Sydney with Eric Gross and Peter Sculthorpe, gaining a BMus (Hons) and the University of Sydney Medal in 1993, and a PhD in 2000. His catalogue of works includes music for solo instrumentalists, chamber ensembles, choirs, orchestras, concert bands and combined choirs with orchestra.
His music has been performed extensively throughout Europe, as well as in Canada, the Middle East, USA, Australia and New Zealand. Performers have included the Australian Intervarsity Choral Festival Choir, Gondwana Voices, RompDuo, the Melbourne Chorale, Anhinga pianoSAX Duo, St Peters Chorale, Zurich Ensemble for New Music, the Choir of London, The Australian Voices, the Hunter Singers, the Grevillea Ensemble with guest artist Diana Doherty, the Harvard University Choir, the United States Navy Band, The Song Company, Waratah Girls Choir, the Sydney and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, and many more.