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Vibrant Saxophone Melodies

Vibrant Saxophone Melodies

The first saxophone was invented around 1840 in Brussels by Adolphe Sax, whose family was a maker of woodwind instruments. The metal-bodied, single-reed instrument was developed through the rest of the 19th century, primarily in French-speaking regions. Music with sax began to emerge in the 19th century and was used strikingly in important orchestral works in the early 20th. Earlier this season, you’ve heard saxophones at Pick-Staiger in both Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Gershwin’s An American in Paris. Both pieces wonderfully demonstrated the sax’s use as a unique orchestral color.

Henri Tomasi (1901-1971) was born in Marseille, France. He attended the conservatory in his hometown of Marseille from a young age and was promenaded, Mozart-like, in the homes of the wealthy. A brilliant pianist, he absorbed a variety of performance styles playing professionally as a teenager. The city of Marseille presented him with a scholarship for further study at the Paris Conservatoire, and he won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1927.

Henri Tomasi composed the Saxophone Concerto in 1949, dedicating it to Marcel Mule, a renowned French saxophonist who was instrumental in popularizing the instrument in classical music circles. Mule was responsible for developing entire generations of classical saxophonists as the instructor for the newly re-established course at the Paris Conservatoire beginning in 1944, and Tomasi's dedication is a testament to their collaboration and friendship.

Tomasi, known for his eclectic style, infused the concerto with elements of both French and Mediterranean music. He drew inspiration from the vibrant cultural tapestry of the Mediterranean region, incorporating lively rhythms, exotic scales, and colorful orchestrations into the concerto's fabric. The Tomasi Saxophone Concerto is celebrated for its technical demands and virtuosic passages, presenting a formidable challenge for saxophonists. From rapid arpeggios to intricate ornamentation, the concerto pushes the boundaries of saxophone performance, showcasing the instrument's versatility and agility.