An American Concerto Tribute To Sigurd Raschèr





An American Concerto Tribute to


Sigurd Raschèr






Carl Anton Wirth


Karel Husa


William Grant Still


Warren Benson


John C. Worley




Lawrence Gwozdz, alto saxophone


Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic


Kirk Trevor, conductor


Steffen Hass, soprano saxophone












Sigurd Raschèr became an instant celebrity when he appeared as a soloist with orchestra at the German Composers' Festival in Hannover in 1932. There was no precedent for a saxophone concerto to be performed at a composers' festival. Reviews of the concert appeared in all parts of Germany. This triumphant orchestral debut, with a concerto by Edmund von Borck (1906ú1944), led to repeat performances a few weeks later with orchestra in Berlin, this time under the baton of the celebrated conductor Eugene Jochum. This was followed by orchestral engagements for Raschèr throughout the world. During his long career as a concert artist, Raschèr performed with virtually every major orchestra and conductor in the world. The conductors with whom he appeared, and the composers who created music for him read like a Who's Who of Twentieth-Century Music.




With the exception of Debussy's Rapsodie (1904), the enormous number of concerti in Raschèr's repertoire were all composed for and dedicated to him. All of these came as a result of mutual artistic enthusiasm; not one was "commissioned." One of Raschèr's lifelong goals has been to inspire the composition of a suitable repertoire of concert music for the saxophone. Toward this end, he has inspired and encouraged countless European and American composers to create fresh and challenging works for the saxophone.




This CD contains a sampling of the many works for saxophone and orchestra that he inspired from the pens of American composers. For many years, he was the only person in the world with the ability to perform most of this repertoire. That others now perform this repertoire is largely a tribute to Raschèr's own inuence as the teacher and role model for succeeding generations of saxophonists.




Carl Anton Wirth (1912ú1986) Idlewood Concerto (1954)




This concerto takes its name from the late composer's retreat situated on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario near Sodus, New York. The general style of the concerto should be familiar to those who have heard some of Wirth's more frequently performed compositions for saxophone. This concerto was rst performed on October 22, 1956, by Sigurd Raschèr and the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. Julius Hegyi was the conductor. Writing for the Chattanooga Times, critic Ruth Golden described the concerto as follows:




The overall impression of this work is of peaceful repose and meditation. The emphasis is less on rigid tonality and rhythm than on melody. The concerto develops from a melodic seed and proceeds without redundancy and complex variations. It is fresh and of lean construction. There is nothing superuous in the progression and development of ideas.




The rst movement, Vista, has great breadth of melodic material. The saxophone enters with a tortuously difcult ight and presents a broad, expansive melody. The concerto is gauged at all times to the warm, throaty tones of the solo instrument, which are employed for maximum effectiveness, as are the particular and outstanding abilities of the artist for whom it is written.




The Scherzando movement in a minor key is accented by insistent calls from the woodwind section. The utter tongue of utes introduces a gently melodic theme which is closed out as the modied sonata form rounds out the movement with the original material. The Ballad and Finale is of pensive quality. An introduction of rich and warm melody is activated by an alternate, vigorous theme. The nal movement is played in time, and the limping tempo is beautifully executed by the orchestra and soloist.




Karel Husa (b. 1921) Élégie et Rondeau (1960)




Karel Husa is one of the most signicant and highly respected composers of our time. Far from being an ivory-tower composer, he speaks to us musically with the immediacy of the headlines of the daily newspaper. His compositional skill has earned him awards such as the Pulitzer Prize and the Grawemeyer Award for Musical Composition. His many compositions include two of the most powerful works yet created for the saxophone: the Élégieet Rondeau,and the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Concert Band.




Sigurd Raschèr was introduced to Husa by the composer Warren Benson in March 1959. After hearing Raschèr's artistry, Husa agreed to compose something for him. At the time, Husa was at work on an élégie for piano solo. It occurred to the composer that this piece could also succeed as a work for saxophone and piano. Given the intense nature of the Élégie,this was a fortuitous realization. The tone of the piano fades as soon as it is struck, whereas the sustained tone of the saxophone is under the full control of the player and can become more intense as the tone continues.




The composer indicates that the general plan of the Rondeauis a steady crescendo from pianissimo to fortississimo. To achieve this goal, Husa does much more than ask for a continuous increase of the dynamic level. The movement begins with a brittle statement of the three-note germ from which the remainder of the movement evolves. From this quiet beginning, spiced with seemingly random sounds from the percussion section, the music works its way relentlessly to a conclusion that borders on the apocalyptic. Toward the conclusion of the Rondeau, when the entire orchestra is in full cry, it is a signicant challenge for the soloist to make his presence felt.




Before Husa orchestrated the piece, Élégie et Rondeauwas performed as a composition for alto saxophone and piano. It is still played frequently and with great emotional impact in that format. With pianist Ernest Lush, Sigurd Raschèr performed the complete Élégie et Rondeaufor the rst time at London's Wigmore Hall on December 12, 1960. Raschèr gave the rst performance of the orchestral setting with the Cornell University Orchestra on May 6, 1962, with Husa conducting. The work is scored for the usual complement of strings; utes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets in pairs, piano, and percussion (three players).




William Grant Still (1895ú1978) Romance (1954)




The Romanceby William Grant Still is one of those little treasures that ennoble the saxophonist's repertoire. Perhaps because of its apparent simplicity


and absence of technical virtuosity, this piece of pure Americana was initially overlooked by many saxophone recitalists. During the past twenty years, however, it has become widely known in a version for alto saxophone and piano. The orchestral setting, which bears a dedication to Sigurd Raschèr, reects the skill acquired by Still during the years he worked as a composer of many Hollywood lm and television scores. Still was one who believed that form and structure are music's most important organizational elements. In the manner of Franz Schubert, Still structured his Romanceso that several phrases are restated a number of times. The challenge for the interpreter is to reveal fresh layers of meaning with each repetition, thus providing the listener with ample opportunity to experience the subtle tonal shadings and contrasts available from the saxophone.William Grant Still was the most prominent Afro-American composer of his generation. He was among the rst to combine European, African, and Afro-American elements in music intended for the concert stage.




Carl Anton Wirth (1912ú1986) Jephthah (1958)




Jephthah was composed for Sigurd Raschèr and his daughter Karin. With pianist David Tudor, the Raschèrs performed Jephthah for the rst time at New York City's Town Hall on November 9, 1958. Wirth soon orchestrated the work for two saxophones accompanied by strings, piano, and percussion. This version was given its rst performance by the Raschèrs in the summer of 1959 at the Eastman School of Music, with Frederick Fennell conducting. The work is a musical retelling of the story found in the eleventh chapter of Judges:




"And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering....




"And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.




"And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back." (Judg. 11:30-31, 34-35)




In Wirth's musical retelling, the role of Jephthah is taken by the alto saxophone, and that of the daughter by the soprano saxophone. The opening section represents Jephthah's passionate invocation to the Lord. This is followed by the daughter's joyous dance as she comes out to greet her father upon his triumphant return from the battle. Father and daughter dance and rejoice together until he remembers his promise to the Lord. The composition concludes in a mood of bleak despair.




Warren Benson (b. 1924) Aeolian Song (1953/55)




The Aeolian Song is the central jewel in Warren Benson's three-movement Concertino for Alto Saxophone and Band Instruments. Its composition, however, predates that of the remainder of the Concertino by two years. Aeolian Song was initially composed for Sigurd Raschèr's use as a recital piece. In the year he composed the Concertino, Benson also made the setting for solo alto saxophone and orchestra heard on this recording. In addition, he made a setting that includes an obbligato part for soprano saxophone. Benson's initial conception of the piece was right on target.




Through his compositions and the force of his personality, Warren Benson has had a powerful inuence on an entire generation of musicians. Among his many works utilizing saxophones, in addition to important compositions for wind ensemble, are highly-regarded compositions for solo saxophone with band or orchestra, and numerous chamber pieces.




John C. Worley (1919-1999) Claremont Concerto (1962)




As with Wirth's Idlewood Concerto, the Claremont Concerto takes its name from the place in which it was composed. At the time of its creation, John Worley was studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and lived in Claremont Park, Surrey, England.




John Worley was unique among the composers represented on this disc in that he also played the saxophone. His personal knowledge of its capabilities is evident throughout the concerto. As with his other music, this work, with its rippling solo part, soaring melodies, lush harmonic vocabulary, constantly shifting tonal centers, and compositional directness, is always a big hit with audiences.




The opening movement is an extended essay in sonata form. The slow middle movement resembles a da capo aria with an elegantly animated central section. The nale, which is generally a rondo, features an enormous cadenza in which Worley brings back and develops anew the themes from all three movements.




-Lee Patrick








Born to Polish-American parents in Niagara Falls, New York, Lawrence Gwozdz has achieved an international reputation for his success at revealing the inherent qualities of the saxophone intended originally by its inventor, Adolphe Sax.




Gwozdz has concertized in North America and Europe: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Manchester, Leipzig, Prague, Zurich, Zagreb, Spoleto USA, and the Menuhin Festival, among others. European reviews declare, "Gwozdz is a most highly versed soloist" (Neue Zuercher Nachrichten), with "a lively, expressive and personal style that arouses thrilling, new dimensions of experiencing music" (Das Orchester).




Gwozdz's debut in New York's Weill Recital Hall was described in Musical America as an "extraordinary performance of contemporary music" with "the kind of timbre Adolphe Sax most likely had in mind,always with subtlety and taste" (New York Concert Review).




His solo CD, An American Tribute to Sigurd Raschèr, won high praise from critics. American Record Guide commented, "The sound is rst-class.Lovers of the saxophone will be pleased." Fanfare wrote, "It would be impossible to praise the performers too highly. Lawrence Gwozdz is an extraordinary saxophonist, bringing out a tremendous range of colors and effects in his instrument." His second CD, Raschèr International, was hailed by Classical Magazine for being "beautifully expressive. Gwozdz keeps his formidable technique completely in the service of the music."




Various composers, among them Samuel Adler, Stephen Dankner, Walter Hartley, Zdenek Lukás, Armand Russell, Robert Starer, Roger Vogel, and John Worley, have dedicated new works to him.




Gwozdz is professor of saxophone at the University of Southern Mississippi, and has studied saxophone with Jean-Marie Londeix, Ronald Tyree, Robert Fought, Laurence Wyman, and the renowned artist Sigurd Raschèr. Gwozdz's degrees come from the University of Iowa, the University of Nebraska, and Fredonia State University College of New York.








Kirk Trevor has been the chief conductor of the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic since 1995. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States where he is the music director of both the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.




Trained as a 'cellist, pianist, and conductor, Trevor pursued his 'cello studies in France and the United States before devoting himself entirely to conducting in 1977. He has guest conducted more than twenty-ve orchestras on three continents. Trevor has developed an extensive repertoire from a wide variety of musical eras and styles, bringing many new scores and sometimes neglected composers to orchestras under his leadership.








Steffen Hass, born in Mannheim, Germany, has been making music since the age of six. In 1983 he began to study the saxophone with Linda Bangs-Urban at the Städtische Jugendmusikschule in Mannheim. In 1990, he entered the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover, where he studied the saxophone with Hermann Cordes.




Mr. Hass was granted the Diploma for Instrumental Music Teaching in 1994 and the Diploma for Performance and Orchestral Music in 1995 from the Hochschule in Hannover. He also earned the Master of Music degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he studied with Lawrence Gwozdz. In addition to his studies, Mr. Hass has been heard as a concerto soloist with the Kurpfaelzische Kammerorchester, the Burgdorfer Kammerorchester, and the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony. He can be heard on disc as concertmaster of the Sueddeutsche Saxophon Kammerorchester on the Orgon and Phono Suecia labels, as well as on their several radio broadcasts in Europe. He is currently an instructor of music at the Städtische Jugendmusikschule in Calw, Germany.








Named after one of the greatest Czech composers, the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1946, and has produced radio recordings and CDs since that time. Their repertoire includes many symphonic works from different periods and a considerable number of contemporary compositions.




Guest performances abroad have taken the orchestra to Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Spain. They also performed six concerts in Carnegie Hall in New York in 1995.




The music heard on this recording is available from the following publishers: Wirth: Concerto: Elkan-Vogel (Theodore Presser) · Husa: Leduc · Still: International Music · Wirth: Jephthah: Ethos · Benson: Theodore Presser & MCA ·Worley: Manuscript




This recording was made possible by grants from the Aaron Copland Music Recording Fund and the University of Southern Mississippi. Special thanks to Dr. Harry Hurwitz and Marek Obdrzalek. Recorded in the concert hall Dum umení in Zlín, Czech Republic on June 12-14, 1998.




Recording Producer: Petr Reznicek · Recording Engineer: Otakar Tajovsk´y · Editor: Petr Reznicek




Cover Photo: Carl Anton Wirth gazing from the bluff at Idlewood. Used with permission of Mary Wirth.








An American Concerto Tribute To Sigurd Raschèr




Lawrence Gwozdz, alto saxophone


Kirk Trevor, conductor · Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic


Steffen Hass, soprano saxophone






Carl Anton Wirth (1912-1986)


Idlewood Concerto (1954)


Vista (6:27)


Scherzando (4:05)


Ballad and Finale (7:05)


Karel Husa (b. 1921)


Élégie et Rondeau (1960)


Élégie (2:49)


Rondeau (6:12)


William Grant Still (1895-1978)


Romance (1954) (5:07)


Carl Anton Wirth


Jephthah (1958)


Invocation (2:42)


Dance (4:11)


Warren Benson (b. 1924)


Aeolian Song (1953-55) (4:36)


John C. Worley (1919-1999)


Claremont Concerto (1962)


Allegro moderato (6:09)


Adagio (6:31)


Molto allegro (8:23)




Total Time = 65:12