Double Concerto for 2 Saxophonists
Opening with a dark and somber set of variations, Double Image exploits the four instruments of the saxophone family. Beautiful, lyrical melodies glide through the second movement as the saxes begin their interplay. The third movement is an exciting romp from beginning to end. Truly a must for the advanced saxophone duo.
Double Image was commissioned by Jeff Heisler and Shawn Teichmer, two former saxophone alumni from Central Michigan University. The work is a concerto in three movements that exploits four of the common instruments of the saxophone family as performed by two players. The first movement features the tenor and baritone saxophone, the second, the alto and the tenor saxophone and the third, soprano saxophones.
The movements of the concerto are starkly contrasting. The first movement, Passacaglia Lamento, is a dark, somber and mysterious set of variations on a bass line consisting of chromatic mediant relationships and angular leaps. The solo baritone saxophone begins the thematic bass line and is then joined by the solo tenor saxophone. Variation I begins with keyboard percussion accompanying the horns on the theme with the solo tenor saxophone on cascading scale passages. The solo baritone saxophone joins the tenor on the tail of the theme with added chimes. Preceded by a short transition in the wind ensemble, Variation II is abbreviated and features a dance-like interplay between the two solo saxophones in asymmetrical meter (7/16). Variation III ensues in which the solo saxophones alternate a skeletonized version of the theme in augmentation accompanied by ascending scales in the upper woodwinds. A heavy, ponderous interlude in the brass leads to Variation IV. Variation IV is perhaps the most dark and mysterious section of the movement that features a ghosted half-tone ostinato in the solo saxophones over only the harmony of the passacaglia. The tail of the variation is then played by low brass and woodwinds accompanied by piano and keyboard percussion. A brief brass fanfare leads to Variation V, which is a spirited duet by the solo saxophones alternating between 4/4 and 7/8 meter, with the wind ensemble accompanying on short articulations of the harmonic background. Horns, flutes and eventually trumpets, enter playing the tail of the theme culminating dramatically on four strongly articulated sonorities by the full ensemble with an underlying timpani solo diminishing into a coda using the head of the passacaglia and ending on an unresolved sonority.
Movement II, Reveries, takes advantage of the two most expressive saxophones (in my opinion), the alto and the tenor. The movement is dreamy consisting of beautiful, lyrical melodic lines, extended tertian harmonies and an array of shifting tonality. The movement is in free form and begins with a sort of “sighing” melodic line that cascades downward and scale-wise. Both saxophones freely exchange this motive over shifting tone color. A variation of sorts follows with the solo saxophones exchanging the motive over a static F# minor tonality. An interlude follows in Bb Major, with an interplay between solo oboe and flute utilizing the motive which leads into a new section in A Major beginning with sweeping harp-like passages in the piano. The solo saxophones begin interplay amongst themselves on a contrasting motive consisting of rising and falling scale-based passages. The texture and dynamic of the section increase and rise to a dramatic moment which brings back the original descending motive in E Major. The passage diminishes in volume and segues into E Minor with the solo saxophones engaging in free development accompanied by the marimba and the piano. The development continues with a bubbly, staccato pattern in the clarinets and marimba and a return of the original motive in imitation between the solo saxophones in C Minor. A transition precipitates a change of mode into C Major and the movement concludes in dreamy fashion with the return of the descending motive and a coda beginning in A Major and coming to rest in Gb Major.
Movement III, Perpetual Motion, was conceived to be an exciting “romp” from beginning to end highlighting the technical skills of the two soprano saxophones. The movement is in a free sonata-rondo form (ABACDABA) with an extended development section. The rondo theme is based on ascending and descending passages of an octatonic scale and its transpositions. Following the initial statement of the theme by both solo saxophones, a short episode follows (B) which consists of large leaps within compound duple meter, still derived from octatonic scale material. This is followed by the return of the rondo (A) after which a rather angry trumpet fanfare leads into C Major and a second episode (C) providing relief from the static harmonic nature of the octatonic scale. Shifting tonality moves the episode through a circle of fifths progression beginning on Ab Major and ending on G Major. The development section follows (D) beginning first with a textural build up utilizing fragments of the rondo theme followed by an interplay between the solo saxophones alternating between 4/4 and 6/8 meter. This is followed by a section which combines the harmonies of the C octatonic scale with that of the C# octatonic scale articulated by the piano and the woodwinds against a re-working of the rondo motive by the solo saxophones. A short section follows that features shifting major tonality with the solo saxophones recalling the material of episode C. The solo saxophones then segue into a 6/8 pattern of ghosted half tones interspersed with slap tongued notes accompanying fragments of the rondo motive in the percussion and various instruments of the wind ensemble. Low brass follow with a syncopated pattern which continues to accompany rondo motives. The percussion then begin an interplay amongst themselves which accompany motives from the rondo and the first episode (B) leading to a retransition to the rondo theme characterized by a thickening of the harmonic texture using overlapping diminished seventh chords. Following the reprise of the rondo, the second episode material is accompanied by a rather “comedic” waltz pattern in the low brass, horns, piano and tambourine. A rousing coda follows which reprises some of the rondo theme and brings the movement to an exciting conclusion.
- David R. Gillingham
Grade Level: 5
Number of Players: Standard + 2
Listen to Recordings
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Bb Clarinet 1
Bb Clarinet 2
Bb Clarinet 3
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Alto Saxophone 1
Eb Alto Saxophone 2
Bb Tenor Saxophone
Eb Baritone Saxophone
Bb Trumpet 1
Bb Trumpet 2
Bb Trumpet 3
F Horn 1
F Horn 2
F Horn 3
F Horn 4
Timpani (4 drums)
Percussion 1 (Bells, Shared: Chimes, Slapstick)
Percussion 2 (Vibraphone, Crotales, Shared: Suspended Cymbal)
Percussion 3 (Marimba (5-oct), Xylophone, Tam-Tam, Shared: Hi-Hat, Tambourine)
Percussion 4 (Brake Drum, Sus. Cym., Temple Blocks, Shared: Chimes, Hi-Hat, Bass Drum)
Percussion 5 (4 Concert Toms, Small Bass Drum, Shared: Bass Drum, Tam-Tam, Slapstick, Tambourine)