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Sonata for tenor saxophone and piano : saxophone with piano

by Nadia Burgess (2013)

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Performance by Nathan Henshaw, Tim Fisher from the CD Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 41.

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Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 41.


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Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 41.

Library shelf no. CD 2516 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

Burgess has admired the virtuosity of the great jazz saxophone players such as Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley and Stan Getz for many years. She also became fascinated with the purity of tone and fluid technique of classical saxophone players during the past few years. In this sonata the saxophone player is given the opportunity to improvise guided by scale, mode and chord indications. The piano part is fully notated.

The first movement, Walking at Sunrise, was inspired by early morning walks at Georges Head in Mosman and also by the song cycle, Winter Morning Walks (Perfectly Still This Solstice Morning in particular), by American composer, Maria Schneider. A sense of calm and stillness at sunrise is created, as well as the sense of space one experiences when able to see a long way into the distance. The saxophone and piano start out in conversation with one another. The piano then mainly accompanies, before taking on the main theme later.

Piano interludes link the movements.The second movement, Rituals of the Day, was inspired by A Quiet Song in the Twilight from Songs and Dances from Africa for Piano by South African composer Stefans Grové, who is a master at the fusion of art music with traditional South-East African music. Such a fusion is created in this movement, as well as a further fusion with jazz, which is found in the popular urban music of the indigenous people in South Africa. The piano imitates the sound of an accompanying mbira (thumb piano) or African xylophone, whereas the saxophone carries the melody line like the human voice or a reed flute. The piano accompaniment in the opening and closing sections is in 9/8 time and set in three bar segments of ostinato patterns which are modified and developed. The quaver patterns are straight in the first bar, irregular in the second and a response appears in the third bar. The melody line is free flowing and of irregular meter, typical of indigenous African music. The slap tonguing is used as a percussive effect, but also imitates the clicking sound produced in the language of the Xhosa tribe. The middle section is set in regular 12/8 time, often found in popular urban African music. It features 20 bars of call and response followed by a 16 bar improvised saxophone solo in an Afro-Cuban jazz style, accompanied by a strong bass ostinato in the piano.

The third movement, After Dusk, is in a swing style. It is a jazz rondo of which the theme is based on a riff of parallel moving chords, such as in Milestones (1958) and All Blues (1959) by the great Miles Davis. It serves as a platform for the saxophone player to display a swing feel and yet another style of improvisation. The piano emulates a jazz combo.

Work Details

Year: 2013

Instrumentation: Tenor saxophone, piano.

Duration: 18 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: 1. Walking at Sunrise -- Interlude I -- 2. Rituals of the Day -- Interlude II -- 3. After Dusk.

Dedication note: Dedicated to Nathan Henshaw

Commission note: Commissioned by Nathan Henshaw.

First performance: by Nathan Henshaw, Lindsay Gilroy at Saxophone Academy Sydney 4th Annual Summer School (St Andrew's Cathedral School) on 21 Jan 2014

The composer has noted the following influences on this work: Jazz, South-East African music

Movements may be performed independently.


Performances of this work

14 Apr 2016: at Composed by Nadia (Lindemann) Burgess (St. Michael's School Chapel (Bloemfontein, South Africa)). Featuring Dana Cilliers, Etienne van Rooyen.

1 Aug 14: St Stephen's Uniting Church, 197 Maquarie St, Sydney. Featuring Nathan Henshaw, Tim Fisher.

26 Feb 2014: at Nadia Burgess: recital of chamber works (Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music). Featuring Nathan Henshaw, Tim Fisher.

24 Feb 14: Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Featuring David Howie, Nathan Henshaw.

21 Jan 2014: at Saxophone Academy Sydney 4th Annual Summer School (St Andrew's Cathedral School). Featuring Nathan Henshaw, Lindsay Gilroy.

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