Martin Butler on his Concerto for Soprano Saxaophone
This concerto was commissioned by the Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts, with funding from the Colwinston Charitable Trust, and was completed in April 2009. It was premiered at the Presteigne Festival in August of that year with Amy Dickson as soloist with the Festival Orchestra, conducted by George Vass.
Two important ingredients helped set the tone of the work: firstly, John Coltrane’s rendition of My Favorite Things on soprano sax – disconcertingly earthy and raw; and ornate, as if he were a snake charmer. Secondly, a tiny bagpipe-like saxophone phrase in my piece, Hootenanny (1994), which got lost in its original context and which I’d always thought deserved a bit more limelight. It gets it here.
The result is an eighteen-minute single span of music, although one which very audibly breaks down into three large sections – fast-ish, slow, faster. The musical vernacular throughout relates closely to a number of other pieces of mine which try to find touching points with various forms, styles and performing practices of folk music (notably Hootenanny itself and American Rounds). This gives rise to the sometimes raucous, gritty, ornamented solo part and the preponderance of open-string and double-stopped string writing.