Lewis Spratlan

b. 1940, USA


Concerto for saxophone and chamber orchestra

Instrumentation: soprano and tenor saxophone (one player) and chamber orchestra (strings, one of each wind instrument, 2-3 percussionists and piano)
Timing: 3 movements, 17 min.
Program notes (written by the composer): This concerto was jointly commissioned by a group of saxophonists organized by Ryan Janus, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was composed during the period July-November 2006.

The piece follows some well-established conventions of the concerto: it is in three movements (here separated not by the usual movement breaks but by brief cadenzas); the large-scale rhythm of the piece is articulated by alternating solo and tutti sections; and much of the local activity is concerned with a volleying of material back and forth between the soloist and orchestra. But the piece has a trajectory that transcends these formal expectations, attempting a narrative that carries us from a condition of unease, even danger, through songful reassurance to guarded exuberance – with a coda that re-invokes the opening with newfound courage and poise.

The first movement, conceived during the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict of July 2006, reflects upon our seeming inability to live at peace with one another, while punctuated with little oases of introspective calm. The movement draws heavily on the opening six measures, a constantly shifting, tightly voiced chord in the strings. This sonority serves as a kind of ritornello (returning figure) throughout the movement and, in fact, pervades the entire concerto in one form or another, reappearing most evidently in the coda. The soloist tries to steer things in this movement, but ultimately can be heard as caught up by uncontrollable forces. The second movement, “Ballad for Billy and Mary Virginia,” is jazz-inflected lament for two favorite first cousins who died young and tragically. A moment of rage appears in the middle, generated from that first-movement string cluster. The finale has two temperaments that constantly interrupt one another. The first is quirky, impetuous, and a bit goofy; the second is a manic sax-and-bass presto that gets layered (festooned?) with commentary from various members of the orchestra. The movement falls exhausted into an intensely lyrical coda that refers to much of the previous material of the concerto, coming to rest at last in a hopeful recasting of the opening dialogue between soloist and strings.

Other information: Written for a consortium of 29 saxophonists, coordinated by Ryan Janus. The other 28 saxophonists, in order of acceptance of the proposal, are: Jeffrey Wiles, Erik Rönmark, Lynn Klock, Daniel Powell, Julia Nolan, James Romain, Jeremy Justeson, Shelley Jagow, John Sampen, Todd Rewoldt, Joshua Thomas, Kenneth Radnofsky, Phil Barham, John Bleuel, Noah Getz, Michael Keepe, Kenneth Fischer, Henning Schröder, Griffin Campbell, Stacy Maugans, Ian Jeffress, Eliot Gattegno, Greg Case, Patrick Murphy, Matthew Sintchak, Lauren Nicholas, Miles Osland, and Carrie Koffman.The piece was premiered by Ryan Janus with the Holland (MI) Symphony on November 17th, 2007, Johannes Müller Stosch, conductor.

Penelope's Knees

Instrumentation: alto sax, double-bass & chamber orchestra [flute (piccolo). 0. clarinet (bass clarinet) / / piano, percussion / 2 violin, viola, cello]
Date: 1985
Timing: 23'
Publisher: Margun


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