Concerto for soprano saxophone and orchestra

Concerto for soprano saxophone and orchestra
Orchestra with Soloist(s)
mit Saxophon
Number of performers
1 (also pic.) · 1 · 1 · bcl. · asx. · 1 - 2 · 2 · 2 · 0 - perc. (3 performers) - hp. - str. (10 · 8 · 6 · 5 · 3)
Composition year(s)
World premiere
Frederiksvaerk · Johannes Ernst, soprano saxophone · Sjaellands Symfonieorkester · Heinz Karl Gruber, conductor
Extra title
Auftraggeber: Wiener Konzerthaus, ORF, Sjaellans Symfonieorkester
Vienna Konzerthaus, ORF, Sjaellans Symfonieorkester
Comment of the composer on the work

After a period of sonically purist compositions (Mouvements, Fasce and Spiegel, 1959–1961), the seamless, organic combination of elements originating from various basic notions, cultural environments and epochs became more and more important to me (e.g. Exercises, 1962–1967).

The interplay between individual and collective began in 2003 with the Concerto for Saxophone and continued playing an increasingly central thematic part in all my works for the stage (Netzwerk, 1962–1967/1978–1980, Baal, 1974-1980, Der Rattenfänger, 1984–1986 and Der Riese vom Steinfeld, 1997–1999), as well as dominating my musical thinking to an exceptional degree in purely instrumental music, in the subsequent Violin Concerto, a quintet for clarinet and string quartet and another one for trombone and string quartet.

At the same time, after the Hymnus of 2000, I turned away from the large orchestra toward transparent, chamber-orchestra settings; of course, the Concerto for Saxophone evinces a certain broader symphonic scope than the following briefer works.

I have always loved the saxophone sound: the low instruments of the family for their often throaty attack, less than the soprano saxophone, which I have often used in my orchestra and which has now become a solo instrument in the Concerto. I value its ability to modulate its sound, its cantabile, its capacity for dreamy loftiness and its virtuosic intensity. The Concerto is dedicated to the Berlin saxophonist Johannes Ernst; I came to admire him after H. K. Gruber introduced us.

The first movement is a prelude; its beginning is powerfully agitated, although the density and volume change starkly as it proceeds. It segues directly to the second movement, a perpetuum mobile in 12/8 and 15/8 metre, flitting in piano over long stretches.

The third movement is a notturno. The melodic elements, slowly developing from the play of tone-colour on the pitch F-sharp, a turn recurs several times, one which had already played a part in the aforementioned Exercises, the basis for my theatre piece Netzwerk.

The fourth movement is a burlesque which temporarily takes on a sombre, menacing character. For several years now, oft-repeating, rapid progressions of quintuplets moving upwards and downwards have been pulsating in my head, which my left hand often plays unwittingly on an imaginary violin. They show up here, too, joining with other elements in contributing to the grotesque in this part of the piece.

The last movement is called Quodlibet und Epilog. The quodlibet swirls elements from the first, second and fourth movements together quasi willy-nilly, whereas the slow epilogue begins with a trio for soprano saxophone, alto saxophone and solo viola, with a violoncello joining later on. There is a transient reminiscence of the Netzwerk melodic scheme from the Notturno before the piece ends with percussive slaps from the solo instrument in pianissimo.

Friedrich Cerha

Universal Edition