What Is a Saxophone Concerto?

A saxophone concerto is a piece of music performed a group of musicians, usually an orchestra, in support of a solo saxophonist. A concerto is defined as a performance in which a single soloist musician is accompanied a group of supporting musicians. The type of instrument soloing with orchestral accompaniment is usually used to identify the type of concerto. The saxophone concerto is uncommon compared to other types of concertos, and it usually features the saxophone family’s higher-pitched instruments.

Many composers have written saxophone concertos, including Claude Debussy and Jacques Ibert. Despite the fact that most concertos feature a single featured soloist, usually a musical celebrity, some concertos can feature multiple soloists. If the saxophone is the dominant soloing instrument in a concerto with multiple soloing instruments, including a saxophone, the concerto is still a saxophone concerto.

The woodwind family of instruments includes the saxophone. A wooden part called a reed is attached to the mouthpiece of a saxophone and is responsible for the vibration that powers the instrument’s sound. The body of a saxophone is covered with keys that are pressed in combination to create the note patterns typical of the saxophone, which can be curved or straight depending on the type of saxophone. The saxophone’s keys are designed to make it an agile instrument in fast-moving musical parts and scales, particularly chromatic scales.

Soprano saxophones, alto saxophones, and tenor saxophones are commonly used in the solo position in a saxophone concerto. Lower-range saxophones, such as the baritone and contrabass saxophones, are rarely heard in saxophone concerto solos because their low tones blend in with the rest of the orchestra rather than stand out. Saxophones are a relatively new type of instrument, having been invented around 1840 Adolphe Sax.

The clarinet, flute, and oboe are other woodwind instruments that frequently appear in concerto solos. Flat wooden reeds are used on saxophones and clarinets, but the oboe has a rounded reed that looks like a large, smooth toothpick. The flute does not have a reed, but it is called a woodwind because flutes were traditionally made of wood. The saxophone concerto is a far less common type of orchestral concerto than those featuring more popular orchestral instruments. Violins and pianos are the most common instruments heard in concertos.