Ballades for Saxophone and Orchestra
Tomasi Martin Ravel Piazzolla Dragatakis Iturralde
Of Corsican descent, Henri Tomasi was born in 1901 inMarseilles, where he studied before entering the Paris Conservatoire. There hewas a composition pupil of Paul Vidal, winning the Prix de Rome in 1927. Healso studied with D'Indy. He established himself as a conductor and as acomposer for the theatre, with a series of concertos that displayed his veryconsiderable powers of orchestration. He wrote his Ballade for altosaxophone and orchestra in 1938 for hisfriend Marcel Mule, one of the leading saxophonists in France. In form andinspiration the work follows the tradition of the fourteenth-century ballade ofthe medieval troubadours, with the solo saxophone taking the r??le of the clown.The work is based on a poem by Suzanne Malard, Tomasi's wife:
Sur un vieux th?¿me anglais, long maigre et flegmatique
un clown raconte son histoire spleenetique
?á la nuit.
L'ombre de son destin, le long des quais zigzague
et le go??t
de megot qu'en sa bouche ont pris de vieilles blagues
le rend fou.
Fuir son habit trop large et sa chair monotone
entre la joie et la douleur, qu'un saxophone
Son desespoir, au fond d'une mare sonore
coule ?á pic.
Et le clown se resigne ?á faire rire encore
[On an old English theme, long, thin and phlegmatic
a clown tells his melancholy tale
to the night.
The shadow of his fate, the length of the zigzagging quays
and the taste
of the fag-end that in his mouth has taken up old jests
makes him mad.
To get away from his coat, too big, and his dull flesh
while only being,
between joy and sorrow, a saxophone
His despair, to the bottom of a sounding pool
sinks right down.
And the clown resigns himself again to making
the public laugh.]
The saxophone is well adapted to this r??le, expressingfeelings between laughter and tears, ranging from dramatic despair to thedynamic heights.
The Swiss composer Frank Martin was born in Geneva in 1890,the tenth and youngest child of a Calvinist minister. He later based his careerthere, as he developed his own original voice as a prolific composer in manygenres. His Ballade for alto saxophone, strings, percussion and piano waswritten in 1938 and dedicated to Sigurd Rascher, providing an importantaddition to contemporary saxophone repertoire. The composer himself wrote: 'Tosurround and carry the saxophone I chose a string orchestra, with percussionand piano. Since the saxophone holds a central place among wind instruments insome way between the brass and the woodwind, other wind instruments would haveeach had a more characteristic sound and would have damaged its independence.The piano and percussion, on the other hand, could only help to bring out itssinging voice'. The mood of the solo instrument ranges from the elegiac to thecommanding, producing a very robust sound. The Ballade is one of a series ofsuch works and was followed, over the years, by similar compositions for flute,piano, trombone, cello, and viola, the last of these in 1973, the year beforehis death.
(based on notes by Jean-Marie Londeix)
The French composer Maurice Ravel had a close affinity withSpain, largely through his maternal ancestry. His father was of Swiss origin,while his mother came from the Basque country. He first used the pattern of theHabanera in his two-piano Sites auriculaires of 1895-97, orchestrating thatmovement, to his own later dissatisfaction, for his Rapsodie espagnole,completed in 1908. His Vocalise-etude en forme de habanera was written for aParis Conservatoire examination in 1907, and has, since then, been the basis ofmany arrangements. The version for saxophone and orchestra is by Arthur Hoeree.
The name of the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla isinextricably connected with the art of the tango, in particular his own nuevotango, which incorporated other elements from contemporary classicalcompositional techniques and from jazz. Born in Mar del Plata in 1921, he wentwith his family to New York in 1924, returning only in 1937 to Buenos Aires,where he appeared, as he had as a child, in concerts as a bandoneon player andtook composition lessons from Ginastera. He established his own orchestra in1944, studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris ten years later, formed variousensembles again in Buenos Aires, later returning to make his home in Paris. Hedied in Buenos Aires in 1992. Piazzolla had a particular affection for thesaxophone, and had appeared with performers such as Malligan and D'Rivera. TheSuite for saxophone and orchestra opens with a Preludio, written in 1987 forthe stage show Tango apasionado. The theme of the Fuga, beginning with thesaxophone, followed by the strings, is taken from the operetta Maria de BuenosAires. The violin introduces Misterio, followed by a saxophone tangoimprovisation and the Fugata follows the pattern of the earlier fugal texture,ending in a free saxophone improvisation. Oblivion, from the sound-track of thefilm Henry IV, is regarded as one of the most sensational tangos, with a soloelement providing an opportunity for a display of expressivity. Adios Nonino,written on the death of the composer's father in 1959, begins with the heavy footstepsof death approaching and soon after the strings present the theme, whichdevelops in various rhythms, to end in a peaceful jazz improvisation from thesaxophone, summoning the cellos, to open the well known melody of Libertango.The adaptation of this suite is by Theodore Kerkezos.
Dimitris Dragatakis was born in Epiros in 1914. He studiedthe violin in the National Conservatory in Athens and is considered one of themost important Greek composers with a personal musical idiom that is bothmature and laconic. Influenced by the musical traditions of his country and ofancient Greek drama, his music came to reflect his interest in new techniques,developing a free atonal style of writing. The winner of a number of majorprizes, he taught advanced harmony at the Greek National Conservatory fortwenty years, until 1997, when he was appointed vice-president. He was for someyears a violist in the Opera Orchestra, and later served on the board of theGreek National Opera, and was vice-president and honorary president of theGreek Composers Union. He died in 2001. The Ballade or Lullaby for saxophoneand strings was written in 2000 and at first intended for violin and piano. Inits present form it was dedicated to Theodore Kerkezos and was first performedas an encore at the Athens Megaron Concert Hall in March 2002 with the AthensState Orchestra. The Ballade is a tonal piece, very different from thecomposer's usual style, showing the influence of his native region. Although itis short the composer makes full use of the range of the saxophone, withoutsacrificing its romanticism.
The Spanish composer Pedro Iturralde was born in 1929 andbegan his musical studies with his father, making his first professionalengagements as a saxophonist at the age of eleve