Saxophone Takes Center Stage With UW Symphony

May 4, 2016

The final University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra concert of the season puts the saxophone on center stage. UW professor Scott Turpen will perform John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto Thursday, May 5.

“It challenges me in ways I’ve never been challenged as a saxophonist, yet it isn’t extremely high, it doesn’t use a bunch of honks and peeps and snorts, which sometimes you hear in some contemporary classical music. It’s just the sound of the saxophone, but it’s music like I’ve never studied before,” says Turpen.

American composer John Adams wrote his Saxophone Concerto in 2013. Since then, it’s been performed all over the world, but this week’s concert is thought to be the first performance by a university orchestra. The new work is being performed alongside an old classic—Beethoven's Symphony No. 2.

“My hope is that this becomes one of those big masterworks,” says Turpen. “But we’re a new instrument, we’re only a little over a hundred and fifty years old at this point, so we’re continuing to build repertoire for our instrument, both inside the orchestra and outside the orchestra.”

The instrument was invented for military band use but was revived by popular music in the 20th century. And although that’s the most common setting for the sax, Turpen says it’s equally at home in classical music.