Sunday, January 17, 2010

Troubling Conversation

This past weekend (Jan. 15/16) in the Washington area, hundreds of saxophonists gathered for the annual Navy Band Saxophone Symposium. For 2 days, saxophonists from all over the world perform for each other and the public (it's all free), as well as lecture about all sorts of saxophone things, and talk. Lot's of talk. There is plenty of time to talk and meet new people and renew acquaintances. For me, the chance to hear new works for quartet is always a treat and also hear fine young college groups that hopefully will stay together after graduation. There are performances in multiple venues at the George Mason University Campus all day long.
However, I did have one troubling conversation with a young player who is finishing his doctorate in performance. We lamented some of the same things from different perspectives...his looking ahead, and mine, looking ahead with many years behind me. I urged him to keep his quartet together after he and fellow players finish their degrees in the coming months. His group plays so well, it would be a shame not to hear more of them in the years to come. When we talked about options after school I mentioned how orchestras are not hiring saxophonists to player those few parts in the repertoire, such as Ravel's orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition" and Ravel's "Bolero." Both are frequently performed works with fine parts. But alas, to save money, the orchestra will give the parts to a clarinet doubler already in the orchestra. At this point the young man said, "his local orchestra went one step further and cut out the soprano and tenor saxophone parts all together from "Bolero" because they couldn't afford it and didn't have someone in the orchestra to play it."
"Just cut it out!," I said. To which he said, that "he even offered to play for free," but they wouldn't or couldn't do it for various reasons.
Just edit Ravel, if you can't afford a full compliment. I want to get to the bottom of this.

I should say that that I have written to the orchestra-in-question, to find out the details. So I offer this without attribution at this time. But I'm looking forward to an complete explanation. Times are difficult, but editing a major work is a bit too much.

More to come...

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