Opus 21

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John Adams
Saxophone Concerto

Timothy McAllister, alto saxophone

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop, conductor

London, Proms 2014

bassinator1960

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Concerto for alto saxophone and string orchestra in E flat major, Op. 109 (1934)

A concerto by Russian composer, conductor and teacher Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936). He directed the Saint Petersburg Conservatory from 1905 to 1928, presiding over it during the turbulent Bolshevik Revolution and reorganizing the institution into the Petrograd Conservatory. Under his celebrated tenure, many great musicians and composers attended the institution, including Sergei Prokofiev, Nikolai Myaskovsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Jascha Heifetz, George Balanchine, Vladimir Sofronitsky and Leo Ornstein, among others. In 1934, the saxophone (which had been invented a century earlier) was still relatively new to the world of classical music and it was generally considered a “middle-class” instrument; Glazunov’s decision to compose a concerto for the alto sax was quite unusual. The German saxophonist Sigurd Raschèr had been requesting a concerto from Glazunov for quite a while, and he finally composed the work in 1934. Although it was written in 1934 and performed in November of the same year in Sweden, the composer did not live to hear it played, since he was living in Paris, where the work’s premiere came after his death. Glazunov outlined the structure of the composition in a letter to Maximilian Steinberg:

– Exposition: Allegro Moderato, in 4/4, ending in G minor
– Development (brief)
– Transition: Andante (C flat major; sometimes B major), in 3/4, leading into a small cadenza
– Conclusion: Fugato (C minor), in 12/8

Saxophone: Pekka Savijoki
Conductor: Jorma Panula
New Stockholm Chamber Orchestra