I’ve been fortunate to be able to dig into some classical repertoire since going back to school (in both solo, and saxophone quartet settings), and it has opened my eyes to some elements of my playing that I hadn’t looked (or rarely looked) at before. My appreciation for classical saxophone has grown exponentially since starting to work on this material.
Here are three things that working on the Glazunov Saxophone Concerto has made me realize.
- Learning the Glazunov is making me address little holes in my technique. I tend to practice in real time, especially when learning tunes or sets of chord changes – I want to be able to execute my ideas with a band, and every night on the bandstand is different. Working primarily as an improvisor, and responding to what’s going on around me has influenced my practicing. Learning this piece has forced me to slow down, and really think about my concept in articulation, sound, response, tone colour, and even fingering choices.
- I’m capable of change, but maybe my playing is not as flexible as I thought it was. I had considered myself a flexible player – I always want to sound authentic in the situation I am in, but digging into classical rep has made me question how flexible my playing is. My classical tone, and vibrato are developing – I’m almost at a point with them where I’m comfortable being able to switch it on, and off without a huge amount of brain power. At first, the tone felt really stuffy, and the vibrato felt awkward (I was holding back). I might be too far the other way with it now, but it’s all part of the process in figuring out my sound.
- I’m amazed with the amount of individual sounds in the classical saxophone world. This might sound obvious – everybody has their own sound, but because I hadn’t done any heavy listening, I couldn’t tell any players apart. It’s been interested to me to start to find players who I’d like to emulate, and will ultimately become strong influences on my playing. I’ve worked on, and taught Ferling, Royal Conservatory of Music, and other standard etudes, but never listened to major classical works. I owned a copy of Romances For Saxophone – that was the extent of my listening, but listening to different performers make their statements on this piece, I’m blown away with the variance between players. I’m partial to Debra Richtmeyer’s interpretation of the Glazunov – I’ve been listening, and playing along with her – I love her tone, and phrasing!