Top Pick: Saxophone to dominate festival slate

BELGIAN inventor Adolphe Sax dreamed of creating a musical instrument with the flexibility of the string family, the power of the brass, and the tone quality of the woodwinds. Around 1841 his tinkerings gave birth to what he dubbed immodestly the saxophone.
Five years later he had patented an entire 'family' of saxophones. Among the later admirers of his genius were composers such as the Italian Gaetano Donizetti, the Hungarian Franz Liszt and the French Giacomo Meyerbeer.
Despite the efforts of these artists, however, the saxophone's sharp and dominating voice still finds greater employment in small bands than in larger orchestras, mainly because orchestras put greater emphasis on the harmony of their parts.


RASCHER Saxophone Quartet.
photo: Courtesy of BHS

BELGIAN inventor Adolphe Sax dreamed of creating a musical instrument with the flexibility of the string family, the power of the brass, and the tone quality of the woodwinds. Around 1841 his tinkerings gave birth to what he dubbed immodestly the saxophone.

Five years later he had patented an entire 'family' of saxophones. Among the later admirers of his genius were composers such as the Italian Gaetano Donizetti, the Hungarian Franz Liszt and the French Giacomo Meyerbeer.

Despite the efforts of these artists, however, the saxophone's sharp and dominating voice still finds greater employment in small bands than in larger orchestras, mainly because orchestras put greater emphasis on the harmony of their parts.

Nevertheless, the 38th annual Bratislava Music Festival (BHS) from September 27 to October 1, featuring classical musicians from 18 countries, will highlight several orchestral arrangements that showcase this quirky instrument.

"In each year's festival we try to present something a bit unusual. This time around it's the saxophone, a less frequently used instrument [in classical music]," explained festival head Miloš Jurkovič.

Five saxophonists from the Czech Gustav Brom Big Band will open the sax section on September 29, performing classical and jazz pieces. Then, American saxophone soloist John Edward Kelly and the Swiss Rascher Saxophone Quartet will show off what the instrument can do in large ensembles. They will share the stage with Slovak and Austrian orchestras on October 1 and 10, respectively, performing works by leading 20th century classicists.

Saxophonist Kelly, accompanied by the Slovak Radio Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Canadian Charles Olivieri-Munroe, will perform Martin's Ballad for Saxophone and Orchestra and Ibert's Concertino da Camera. The quartet, joined by the Austrian Bruckner Orchester Linz and led by Dennis Russell Davies, will also play the Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra by Philip Glass, a work composed expressly for them.

Their "unique homogeneous tone quality, virtuosity and dynamic interpretation" has led many contemporary composers to dedicate music to the Rascher Saxophone Quartet since its founding in 1969 by the master of classical saxophone and a founding member of the quartet, Sigurd Rascher.

Similarly, the repertoire of John Edward Kelly, born in 1958 in San Francisco, consists mostly of works written for him, including concertos for saxophone and orchestra.

The Bratislava Music Festival (Bratislavské hudobné slávnosti) celebrates the 120th birthday of Russian Igor Stravinsky. Tickets (Sk100-500) and schedule can be obtained at the box office of the Slovak Philharmonic (Slovenská filharmónia) on Palackého 2 or at the Music Centre (Hudobné centrum) on Michalská 10.

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