OK so I know what most of you are thinking, "Baritone Saxophone? Who cares!" If this was any other UMWO concert I might let you get away with that thought, as the saxophone studio rarely makes appearances in UMWO and when we do, most of the Baritone Saxo part just doubles the tuba part and is hard to hear. But it just so happens that we are playing one of the most difficult pieces of wind music for saxophones next week, Karel Husa's Music for Prague 1968-so listen up!
Most saxophone majors at a major School of Music study privately in high school/audition for college on alto saxophone because the majority of our repertoire is written for alto and it is considerably easier to learn on. I on the other hand played baritone saxophone exclusively from 6th-12th grade, taking lessons for 4 years and taking all my college auditions with it. Needless to say, the large and cumbersome baritone saxo holds a special place in my heart. For those of you who dont know, the baritone is literally more than twice the size of the alto from weight (6 lbs v. 17 lbs), to height (1.5 ft v. 3.5 ft), and mouthpiece/reed size; making it considerably harder to sound like a sophisticated and agile instrument when playing technical passages.
The ensemble audition rep for this fall (which we play exclusively on alto) included many excerpts from Music for Prague, which to be honest, were pretty difficult to prepare. When I went to pick up my music to prepare for rehearsal a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly greeted with the same alto part that I had prepared for the 2nd movement staring right back at me as part of the baritone part. Although I was a little freaked out at first, I quickly embraced the opportunity to relearn this part on the baritone, which has been quite a bear! Husa’s writing is really interesting and he did an excellent job of highlighting the power, agility, and sensitivity that a baritone saxophone is capable of. I have had a blast rehearsing this piece and playing it is quite the workout.
So if you come to listen to this incredibly powerful and dark piece on our first concert next week, don’t be surprised if you hear something that you have never heard before: the baritone saxophone playing something other than whole notes!