Ingolf Dahl  (1912 – 1970)

Concerto for Alto Saxophone (1949)

original version

The Concerto for Alto Saxophone by Ingolf Dahl (1912 – 1970) exists today in a twice revised version substantially different from the original composition.  From the time of its completion (1949) until its publication (1980),  the concerto endured an undocumented history of revisions and performances that reflected changing attitudes of the composer and the varying abilities of the soloists.  As a result of these extensive revisions, only one of which was publicly acknowledged by Dahl, the concerto was radically transformed into the work known today.


Composed in 1948 and 1949 for Sigurd Rascher, the concerto was scored for full concert band with a duration of 28 minutes. Rascher had been deeply impressed by Dahl’s Music for Brass Instruments and sought to interest him in a saxophone concerto. Rascher asked for a work that would take into account the full artistic and technical resources of the saxophone and wanted Dahl’s artistic imagination to be in no way compromised by conventional limitations, either of the saxophone or music for winds. Dahl knew of Rascher from his European and American performances and recordings, and immediately was interested. At the time Dahl was also interested in the wind ensemble, especially the concert band. He saw the need to elevate the wind medium with music of greater sophistication and complexity. The ensemble of a concert band accompanying the saxophone was a perfect combination and Dahl enthusiastically embraced the project.


The result was an extraordinary work that is as much for the band as it is for the saxophone. The duration, complexity and sophistication of the original version puts unusual demands on the ensemble and soloist.  Sigurd Rascher premiered the original version on May 17, l949 with the University of Illinois Concert Band under the direction of Mark Hindsley, and later performed the work over 11 times between 1949 and 1960 with the finest college bands in the United States. Rascher considered it one the very best works written for him. At the time, Dahl expressed great satisfaction and enthusiasm for the work. In a letter to Rascher, Dahl wrote of playing the concerto for Igor Stravinksy:


“You will be interested that I finally gathered my courage and took both record and score to Stravinsky and played the record to him. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. After it was over, he said nothing but just got up and embraced me, with moist eyes, and in Russian fashion kissed me on both cheeks. He thinks it is one of the best new things he has heard. After that praise, from that great man, everything else seems to matter little, as you will understand. I will always be grateful to you for bringing this about.”


Despite critical acclaim for this version, including enthusiastic responses from Igor Stravinsky and Henry Cowell, Dahl first revised the work in l953. He changed the concert band instrumentation to orchestral winds, rewrote the last movement and simplified the solo saxophone part. Among many changes, the necessity of playing within the altissimo range was eliminated. The length of this version was approximately the same as the original (1949) version (26-28 minutes).


From 1958 to 1959, Dahl revised the concerto a second time. These revisions, never publicly acknowledged, consisted almost exclusively of cuts and deletions of sections in the second and third movements. With over seven minutes (approximately 25% of the work) deleted, the length of this last version—that which is published today—is 18–19 minutes. Some of the deleted material was inserted into his Sinfonietta for Concert Band that he was writing at the time. Dahl destroyed all the parts and scores of the original version, in part because of the duplication of material found in the Sinfonietta. I discovered the last remaining set in a reference library that Dahl had apparently overlooked. This is the first recording of the original version.


For more information on the original version of the Dahl Concerto for Saxophone, please reference my article The Secret Life of the Original 1949 Saxophone Concerto of Ingolf Dahl, or my book on the concerto, The Original 1949 Saxophone Concerto of Ingolf Dahl: A Historical and Comparative Analysis. Contact or for details and availability. — Paul Cohen


Marguerite Roesgen-Champion (1894 – 1976)

Concerto No. 2 (1945)

The Swiss composer and performer Marguerite Roesgen - Champion (1894 - 1976) specialized in the harpsichord. In Switzerland she studied with Ernest Bloch and E. Jacques-Dalcroze, among others. Beginning in 1926, she lived in Paris and dedicated herself exclusively to her work as a composer. She wrote works for large orchestra, harpsichord, piano, vocals, and chamber ensembles. During the last century, Roesgen-Champion was one of the most highly regarded harpsichordists and women composers in France.

Concerto No. 2 is from 1945, and reflects the post-Ravelian Impressionism that was a significant part of the French musical landscape of the mid-20th Century. The scoring for bassoon, saxophone, and harpsichord is original, as the saxophone was known to be well suited to classical chamber, orchestra, and operatic works throughout the century.


Charles Martin Loeffler  (1861 – 1935)

Ballade Carnavalesque (1903)

Charles Martin Loeffler (1861 – 1935) was one of the most respected composers in the United States at the time of his death. Born and educated in Europe, Loeffler moved to the United States at age 20 (1881), eventually settling in Boston. He was originally trained as a violinist and had a distinguished career as an orchestral musician, serving as assistant concertmaster with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 21 seasons. Loeffler began composing seriously in the mid-1880s, and after his retirement from the BSO in 1903 divided his time between composition, teaching violin, and overseeing his farm in Medfield MA. His early music has strong French Impressionist qualities infused with Irish, Spanish, and medieval Russian elements, while his later works reveal the influence of Indigenous styles of American music including jazz and folk. His more famous compositions include Two Rhapsodies for oboe, viola, and piano, and Evocations for orchestra, commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra.


Ballade Carnavalesque for flute, oboe, alto saxophone, bassoon, and piano is an expansive, 14-minute multisection work played without pause. Written in 1903 for Elise Hall (for whom Loeffler also wrote his Divertissement Espagnol in 1901), the Ballade was given its first performance on January 25, 1904 at the Longy Club in Boston. The work is of considerable interest to saxophonists, for not only is the Ballade related to the harmonic and melodic vocabulary of the Two Rhapsodies, it is one of the earliest chamber works in which the saxophone is fully incorporated into the texture of an ensemble. It is not clear what Loeffler thought of the Ballade Carnavalesque. Although some themes were used years later in Loeffler’s orchestral work A Pagan Poem, the Ballade was never published and only performed once more, two years later. The manuscript was lost for some 75 years until I discovered a copy of the holograph score in the uncatalogued stacks of the Library of Congress. I reconciled this score with the score housed at the New England Conservatory Library. Special permission was granted by both libraries, and I re-premiered the work in 1978, and published it some years later. — Paul Cohen


Charles Martin Loeffler (1861 – 1935)

The Lone Prairee (c. 1930)

The Lone Prairee, written c. 1930, is scored for tenor saxophone, viola d’amore, and piano. Charles Martin Loeffler, who was an accomplished performer on the viola d’amore and viola, wrote the viola d’amore part so that it may also be played on viola.


The Lone Prairee has always been listed in the various catalogues of Charles Martin Loeffler’s compositions as being incomplete. Paul Cohen and I found the undated holograph sketches and scores for the piece in the Loeffler Collection in the Music Division of the Library of Congress in Washington DC. In 1991, the Loeffler scholar Ellen Knight directed me to a little‑known five-page holograph of The Lone Prairee which is in effect virtually complete. This second score, although contained in the Loeffler Collection in Washington, is not catalogued.


Although the work is listed by Ellen Knight as “A Paraphrase on Two Western Cowboy Songs,” all the holograph material is simply headed The Lone Prairee. I have traced the two tunes used by Loeffler to an issue of the Wa‑Wan Press Magazine (Vol. IV, Spring 1905) where they appeared with harmonizations by Arthur Farwell. Farwell credits Henry Gilbert with collecting the melody of the cowboy song The Lone Prairee and Alice Haskell with collecting the words and tune to the [African American] spiritual Moanin’ Dove from inhabitants of the South Carolina coastal islands. — Bruce Gbur, performer and musicologist


Steve Cohen (b. 1954)

Trio (2018)

The Trio was written in 2018 for Guy Dellacave, one of Paul Cohen’s students at the Manhattan School of Music. It is one of a series of solo and chamber works that Cohen (b. 1954) has written for the saxophone, including sonatas, saxophone quartets and mixed chamber music.


1. “Andante”: A slow, ruminative figure for flute is answered by the saxophone a tri-tone away, with a main subject in three-bar phrases, and a secondary subject first heard as a piano solo. The movement closes with a return to the andante material.


2. “Slow Blues”: An introduction for solo piano soon modulates for an extended song-form with a bluesy feel to it. Flute takes the lead in the first section, and saxophone takes over for the contrasting second section, which leads to a flute-saxophone duet for the final section. The movement ends in ambiguous evanescence.


3. “Fast Afro-Cuban Feel”: The solo saxophone starts this movement in a lively dance with alternating meters and rhythms. Towards the middle, a new theme is heard from the solo piano, and is taken up in turn by the flute and the saxophone. Towards the end, this theme is heard in augmentation over the material from the main section.

— Steve Cohen






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