Concerto for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra (1997)

Programme Note: John Buckley

The saxophone, with its enormous expressive potential, combining the dynamic range of the brass with the flexibility and agility of the woodwind, has always seemed to me an ideal concerto instrument.

The first plans for the saxophone concerto were discussed with Kenneth Edge in the mid-1980s and led initially to a work for solo saxophone, Arabesque (1990). This piece, with its justaposition of rapid passages and long, slower elaborate melodic lines, acted as a starting point for the concerto. Much of its musical material is reinterpreted and developed in the new piece.

The concerto is in a single movement, falling into four principal sections. A vigorous opening toccata of virtually constant semiquaver movement leads to a cadenza for the soloist with orchestral commentary. The third section is more lyrical in disposition, with long, highly ornamented lines for the soloist, set against an elaborate harmonic web in the strings. The final section is a varied recap of the opening toccata.

The concerto was commissioned by Kenneth Edge and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, with the financial assistance of the Arts Council and Toyota Ireland Ltd. It was first performed in September 1997 in the University of Limerick Concert Hall by Kenneth Edge and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, directed by Fionnuala Hunt.

The Concerto for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra is dedicated to Kenneth Edge whose superb playing has been a great source of inspiration.