The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Friday night, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performs an eclectic program that highlights the virtuosic possibilities and rarely heard repertoire of the saxophone with French great Claude Delangle.

January 9, 2013
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ALERT: In another sign that the winter intermission is over, the FREE weekly Friday Noon Musicales (below) at the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, start up again this Friday from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Oboist Scott Ellington and pianist Ted Reinke will perform the work of Jean Berger and Eric Ewesen.


By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear suspects that, like him, many classical music fans think of the saxophone as primarily a jazz and blues instrument. That is certainly how it achieved most of its fame in the U.S.

But the saxophone (below)  is also a staple of the classical orchestral repertoire, one that French Impressionist composers such as Debussy and Ravel used to great effect for atmosphere, as did the 20th-century Russian composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

The saxophone, which comes in several sizes and was invented in France around 1840 by the Belgian Adolphe Sax, also can provide a gateway into charming discoveries of unknown repertoire. And I find it an especially warm sound to hear in deep winter, with its sonic suggestions of more sensual climes.


Probably no saxophonist on the scene today is better prepared to meet that challenge than the French virtuoso Claude Delangle.

Claude Delangle

Delangle is a giant among saxophonists, and will be the guest soloist with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below), playing under music director Andrew Sewell, at 8 pm. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. This is a return engagement by Delangle, who last performed with the WCO in 2007 and was well received by the audience and critics.

Tickets are $15-$65. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141, or visit:

WCO lobby

Delangle returns for two major works for the instrument: the “Fantasia’ by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’ (below top) and the famous Concerto for Alto Saxophone in E-flat, O., 109, by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov (below bottom with a YouTube video at bottom).

Villa-Lobos BW


Plus, adds the WCO press release, “Claude’s fine playing in 2007 brought new meaning to the words “brilliant and breath-taking.” His sublime skill and creamy sound evoke gasps of delight from his audiences. Be prepared for encores!”

Also featured on the program – typical of conductor Andrew Sewell and his eclecticism and fondness for French music — is “Jeux d’enfants,” Op.22 (Children’s Games), which many of us first heard as music for Saturday morning cartoons on TV. But it remains serious music by the gifted French composer (below) who is best known for the opera “Carmen” and who died tragically young. Originally a set of 12 for piano for four hands, Bizet (below) later orchestrated the piece into this delightful suite of five movements, which celebrates youth.


Then the WCO turns to two Classical-era staples where it has traditionally shined:  Beethoven (specifically, the rarely heard Twelve Contradances) and Mozart (the lively Symphony No. 31 or “Paris”).

As for Delangle, here is a capsule biography provided by the WCO press release:

“Soloist, researcher and pedagogue, Claude Delangle, one of the greatest contemporary saxophonists, stands out as the master of the French saxophone. A privileged interpreter for classic works, he enriches the repertoire and encourages creation by collaborating with the most renowned composers, including Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Toru Takemitsu, Astor Piazzolla, and also promoting the youngest and newest.

“Since 1986, he has been an invited saxophonist in the famous Paris–based Ensemble Intercontemporain founded by Pierre Boulez; he also appears as soloist with the most prestigious orchestras (London BBC, Radio France, Radio of Finland, WDR Köln, Berlin Philharmonic, Kioi Tokyo) and works with D. Robertson, P. Eötvös, K. Nagano, E.P. Salonen, Miung Wung Chung, G. Bernstein and many other conductors.”

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