Please DONATE to help with maintenance and upkeep of the Wind Repertory Project!

Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble

From Wind Repertory Project
Jump to navigation Jump to search
John Mackey

John Mackey

General Info

Year: 2007
Duration: c. 25:00
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Osti Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $500.00 (Rental)   |   Score (Purchase) - $95.00


1. Prelude - 2:09
2. Felt - 5:51
3. Metal - 7:28
4. Wood - 4:15
5. Finale - 4:50


Full Score
Solo B-flat Soprano Saxophone
C Piccolo
Oboe I-II (I doubling English Horn)
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
B-flat Bass Clarinet I-II
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV (All doubling Flugelhorn)
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V-VI, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Brake Drums (2, with bell plates on top)
  • China Cymbal
  • Crotales
  • Glockenspiel
  • Marimba
  • Slapstick
  • Suspended Cymbals (3)
  • Tubular Bells
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


In Parts:

  • Flutes (all), mvt. 1, m.64-67: The parts show rests. Flutes should play what is in the score.

Program Notes

To me, the saxophone is a kind of hybrid instrument; it’s essentially a brass instrument with a woodwind reed on it. Instead of valves like a brass instrument has, the sax has keys like a woodwind. (Many sax players even switch effortlessly from sax to a woodwind like a clarinet, and back again in the same concert.) So, I had an instrument made of three materials: felt (the pads of the keys), metal (the body), and wood (the reed). In fact, every instrument in the band can be placed into one (or more) of those “categories.” The brass section is made of metal, the harp is made of metal and wood, the wind section has keys, and so on. This realization gave me the central idea for the piece: a multi-movement work with the inner movements called Felt, Metal, and Wood, and with instrumentation chosen to essentially match those materials for each movement. The outer movements would be scored for the entire ensemble.

The piece starts with Prelude, a very brief overture to the concerto, with material that foreshadows each of the movements to come. If you hear something you like in the Prelude, you’ll probably hear it more developed in the following movements. (Conversely, if you hear absolutely nothing you like in the Prelude, you may be in for a long night.)

Movement two is Felt. This movement is a study of the keys of the instrument, so it includes lots of runs (requiring quick fingers), lots of pitch bending (to show what different pitches the sax can produce with minimal movement of the fingers), and a bit of alternate fingering. On the saxophone, the player can play the same pitch by using different combinations of keys, and each fingering combination results in a slightly different color. In this movement, you’ll hear repeated notes that are accomplished with changing fingerings, so the color will shift from note to note, even as the pitch stays the same. The other question -- besides “what is a sax made of” -- that I wanted to consider when writing the concerto was, “what does a sax do?” Movement 2, Felt, answers that question with, “well, the sax can play some weird sounds.” With that pitch bending and crazy fingering, it’s a peculiar five minutes.

Movement three, Metal, answers that same question with, “the sax can play high and pretty.” This movement, scored primarily for metal percussion and brass, is a calm, lyrical contrast to the weirdness that preceded it.

It seemed silly to write a sax concerto and not deal with the fact that the sax is often heard simply playing a song in an intimate setting -- say, at a jazz club. Movement four, Wood, is really just that: a simple song. The scoring here is, as you’d expect, woodwinds (including flutes, which aren’t technically made of wood anymore), double bass, harp, piano, marimba, and -- as in every movement -- the sax section. The piece of mine that led to the commission of the sax concerto was a piece called Redline Tango, and specifically, the soprano sax solo that anchors that work. To acknowledge that, this movement, yes, is a tango.

Finally we reach the Finale. First, just a little background. My teacher in college was a composer named John Corigliano. Before I ever studied with him, one of my favorite pieces was his Clarinet Concerto. It’s not just a spectacular piece, but it’s easily (to me, at least) one of the greatest wind concertos ever written. When I got this commission, Corigliano’s concerto cast a pretty intense shadow over me. How could I possibly write a concerto anywhere near the quality of that work?

Well, I couldn’t -- so I stole his. Finale starts with a nearly direct quote of John Corigliano’s Clarinet Concerto. In order to make it as meta as possible, my quote is in fact a quote of a quote. I’m quoting the Corigliano, which was, in these six bars, quoting a work by 16th century composer Giovanni Gabrieli, Sonata Pian'e Forte. After my little tribute to my teacher, the solo part takes off for roughly four minutes of non-stop virtuosity. Here my answer to the question “what does a sax do?” was simply, “well, the sax can play some monster-difficult stuff.”

Concerto for Soprano Sax was commissioned by The Dallas Wind Symphony, University of Texas at Austin, The United States Navy Band, Cleveland State University, Illinois State University, Boston College, University of Illinois, University of Arizona, Texas A&M Kingsville, Riverside Community College, University of Georgia, University of North Florida, University of South Florida, Kansas State University, University of Kansas Bands, Ridgewood Concert Band, Louisiana State University, Azusa Pacific University, Arizona State University, California State University Los Angeles, Peabody Conservatory of Music, University of Toledo, Texas Tech University, University of Washington, Baylor University, University of Regina, University of Oregon, and Florida State University.

The work received its premiere October 23, 2007, The Dallas Wind Symphony, conducted by Jerry Junkin. Don Fabian, soloist. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, Texas.

- Program Note by composer



State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Wind Ensemble (Christopher Hughes, conductor) – 3 March 2020
  • University of Missouri, Kansas City, Wind Symphony (Stephen D. Davis, conductor) – 13 February 2020
  • Arizona State University (Tempe) Wind Orchestra (Jason Caslor, conductor) – 5 February 2020
  • University of Connecticut (Storrs) Wind Ensemble (Vu Nguyen, conductor; Greg Case, soprano saxophone) – 14 November 2019
  • University of Cincinnati (Ohio) College-Conservatory of Music Wind Symphony (Kevin Michael Holzman, conductor) – 27 April 2019
  • University of Oklahoma (Norman) Wind Symphony (Shanti Simon, conductor; Damian Cheek, saxophone) – 25 February 2019
  • University of Colorado Boulder Wind Symphony (Donald J. McKinney, conductor; Ryan Van Scoyk, soprano saxophone) – 22 February 2019
  • Cy-Fair High School Band (Cypress, Tex.) (Mark Veenstra, conductor; Jeremy Loeffert, soprano saxophone) - 19 December 2018 (2018 Midwest Clinic)
  • Kennesaw (Ga.) State University Wind Ensemble (David T. Kehler, conductor; Jonathan Steltzer, soprano saxophone) – 12 March 2018
  • Dallas (Tex.) Winds (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Don Fabian, soprano saxophone) – 14 November 2017
  • Ohio University (Athens) Wind Symphony (Andrew Trachsel, conductor; Jordan Carinelli, soprano saxophone) – 5 November 2017
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Mark Davis Scatterday, conductor; Doug O’Connor, soprano saxophone) – 1 November 2017
  • Florida State University (Tallahassee) Wind Orchestra (Richard Clary, conductor; Katherine Weintraub, soprano saxophone)– 25 April 2017
  • University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Wind Ensemble (Christopher Knighten, conductor; Eric Troiano, soprano saxophone) – 24 February 2017
  • San Jose State University Wind Ensemble (Edward C. Harris, conductor; Michael Hernandes, soprano saxophone) – 3 December 2015
  • Penn High School (Mishawaka, Ind.) Symphonic Winds (Glenn Northern, conductor; Eric Wistreich, soprano saxophone) – 8 October 2015
  • University of Texas Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Stephen Page, saxophone) – 27 September 2015
  • Utah Wind Symphony (Salt Lake City) (Scott Hagan, conductor; Tim McAllister, soprano saxophone) – 20 December 2014 (2014 Midwest Clinic)
  • San Luis Obispo Wind Orchestra (William V. Johnson, conductor; Lauren Wasynchuk, soprano sax) - 24 March 2012
  • Florida International University Wind Ensemble (Catherine Rand, conductor) - April 13, 2009
  • California State University, Los Angeles, Wind Ensemble (Abel Ramirez, conductor; Jeffrey Benedict, soprano saxophone) – 20 March 2008 (CBDNA 2008 Western/Northwestern Division Conference, Reno, Nev.)

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works