Composer: David DeBoor Canfield (born 1950)
Date of Composition: 2009
Dedication and premiere: Eugene Rousseau
Premiere: Kenneth Tse, saxophone
Allan McMurray, conductor
Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra
July 8th, 2009; Bangkok, Thailand (World Saxophone Congress)
Duration: 22 minutes
Difficult level: 9
1. Andantino—Allegro Spirito
2. Tranquillo e piacevole
3. Tempo di Tarantella
Instrumentation: alto saxophone and orchestra
Publisher: Enharmonic Press
Given the relatively late invention of the saxophone, it is not surprising that there are few original works for the instrument written in a true romantic style, and even fewer concertos. The first germ of the idea for the present work came to me in 1994 when I was asked to arrange Reinhold Glière’s Intermezzo and Tarantella (originally composed for double bass and piano) for double bass and orchestra. Hearing the resulting performance, I liked the piece very much as an orchestral piece, but never have particularly cared for the double bass as a solo instrument. From that time, I began thinking about another instrument that would work better as the solo instrument in this arrangement, and almost immediately the saxophone came to mind. By the time in the summer of 2007 that I began work on Dr. Rousseau’s concerto, I realized that my orchestration of Glière’s two pieces could form the nucleus of a concerto that would do a small part to relieve the dearth of original romantic saxophone music.
These two movements then, with significant reworking of the solo part to make it more suitable for saxophone, became the final two movements of this concerto, although after I finished that task, and touched up the orchestration a bit, I realized that the Intermezzo was too short for a work of symphonic proportions. I therefore added an entire original middle section to double the length of that movement, and provide some needed contrast in mood. With the final two movements completed, I then had to consider what to do for a first movement, which ideally needed to be the longest movement of the work. Briefly considering looking through Glière’s oeuvre to see if another of his pieces might serve my purpose, I decided rather to compose the initial movement myself. Doing this would allow me to affix my name to the work as a composer, and not just as arranger, given that more than half of the running time of the work would be original music. The combination of Canfield and Glière also allows me to make a (very precarious) claim to having produced the “first” saxophone concerto, since the Glière work that is the foundation of the final two movements was composed in 1900. This is a year before the first original concerto for the saxophone was written by Paul Gilson, the distinguished Belgian composer. I had previously jointly composed a music drama with my father, Dr. John Canfield, and one might imagine the challenges present with two quite different composers working on the same piece of music. With Glière, it was much easier, since he died in 1956 and was not around to complain about what I was doing to his most beautiful work!