SASO to perform unusual works for saxophone

Punch Howarth

Russian Romantic composer Alexander Glazunov’s, 1865-1936, last composition was a saxophone concerto, an instrument rarely used in a symphony orchestra. Only being invented in 1840 by Adolphe Sax, a clarinetist in Paris. Of nine varieties, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones are most commonly used; made popular in the swing bands of the 1930s-1950s jazz groups and concert/military bands, called a woodwind with a single reed. However, they are made from brass. Considered a French instrument with works by Ravel, Bizet and Milhaud, others have also included it such as Prokofiev, Shostakovich, R. Strauss, Gershwin and Bernstein.

Glazunov was a Romantic-Nationalist following in the footsteps of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov who was his teacher. He was a successful conductor, composer and teacher with violinist Nathan Milstein and Dmitri Shostakovich as students. As with so many traditionalists in many professions do, he basically rejects the modernism of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich compositions he labeled “cacophonists,” terrible sounds. One important legacy he left was making the St. Petersburg Conservatory world class.

His final work was Concerto in E flat major for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra, Op. 109, a 14-minute work in one movement. Played without pause it sounds as a sonata form movement. The structure opens in E flat as a fast 4/4 theme, ending in G major followed by a short development. Next comes slow new material in 3/4 alternating C flat major and B major, two unusual keys, with a short cadenza. A conclusion follows in 12/8, a C minor Fugato with a return to a coda in the home key of E flat. Following will be Astor Piazzolla’s Two Tangos for Alto Saxophone. Soloist will be Ashu with B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern University as a student of Fred Hemke. He has performed worldwide in Vienna, Prague, Lisbon, St. Petersburg, Zurich, Singapore, Chicago and Carnegie Hall.

Also on the program are Walton’s Crown Imperial, Faure’s Requiem and the Dorothy Vanek Concerto Competition Contest winner. Concerts are Friday, March 17, in Green Valley at Valley Presbyterian Church at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, March 18, at DesertView Performing Arts Auditorium in SaddleBrooke at 7:30 p.m. and at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Oro Valley at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 19.

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