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TREVOR HOLD has dragged
from oblivion some music
you will not know.

17. Fauré's Saxophone Concertino (1923)



The commission in 1923 for a Saxophone Concertino came as a shock to Fauré, who had never even heard a saxophone played, and, by now stone-deaf, was unable to imagine what it sounded like. So he had to rely on the advice of professional colleagues, notably his young friends, Les Six. Milhaud was particularly helpful, playing over relevant passages from La Création du Monde, whilst Poulenc offered to take him to a night-club in Paris to hear the great Sidney Bechet play. It therefore comes as no surprise that the work contains many jazz references, which sets it apart from all his other works. Sadly Fauré died before the concertino was completed, but the two movements we have - 'Blues' and 'Charleston' - indicate a new departure in the Maître's musical progress. The 'Blues' (or 'Les Bleux', as Fauré insisted on calling it) adapts the traditional 12-bar formula to great effect. (Few jazz musicians have managed to fit so many modulations into such a short span.) Other notable features include the saxophone's entry on a long upward-rising glissando and the 'bent' notes of the main theme. The 'Charleston' seems to be the first known 'classical' example of the dance, predating Erwin Schulhoff's use of it in the first of his Études de Jazz (1927) by some four years. But not all the work is as radical as the foregoing notes might suggest, and perhaps the most memorable moment comes in the central section of the Charleston, when Fauré quotes the 'Berceuse' from his Dolly suite in a most effective way.


Copyright © 16 March 2000, Trevor Hold, Peterborough, UK


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