commentary to opus 96b
Music for Alto Saxophone in E-flat and Orchestra, op. 96b (1993/1995)
Orchestra: 188.8.131.52 - 184.108.40.206 - Timpani, Percussion. <2>, Strings
performance: February 9, 1996, Lublin (Poland)
Duration: 20 Minutes
N. Simrock Hamburg-London (Boosey & Hawkes)
"Music for Saxophone (E-Flat/Alt) and Orchestra",
op. 96b (1993/1995) has the character of an instrumental ballade with rhapsodic
elements, in which the soloist takes, so to speak, the role of the narrator. This
work in one movement is subdivided into seven sections of contrasting dynamic
and rhythmical structure.
Göttinger Tageblatt, 25th March, 1998
Gregorian chant on the Saxophone
In the concert to be given by the Göttingen Symphony Orchestra on Friday coming, the "Music for Saxophone and Orchestra" by Bertold Hummel will receive its German première. Tageblatt sub-editor Michael Schäfer spoke with the composer, who lives in Würzburg.
In your catalogue, the saxophone appears quite often from Opus 68 on. Is there
a particular reason for this?
Indeed there is, for at that point I met a very fine saxophonist from Canada,
Normand DesChenes. His playing cleared away my earlier scepticism about this instrument.
Later he made a series of CDs of my works.
There was an earlier version of your "Music for Saxophone" for horn
and orchestra. What moved you to the reworking?
I met the saxophonist Andrzej Rzymkowski, who did a lot to promote my saxophone
pieces in his native Poland. I rearranged the piece for him. The saxophone version
is considerably altered from the horn version, it is significantly more virtuosic
and has a completely new cadenza. Andrzej Rzymkowski was also the soloist at the
première, which took place on the 9th February, 1996 in Lublin.
In the central section of your piece, you quote, as you mention in your introduction
to the work, a Gregorian hymn. Gregorian chant and Saxophone - how does this fit
The sound of the saxophone, particularly in the lower range, resembles the human
voice. From that point of view, I can also intone a Gregorian hymn with the saxophone.
By the way, Richard Wagner originally wanted to use the saxophone in the "Ring
des Nibelungen" - it strengthens in a special way the middle range of
Do you think that listeners from the Protestant north can identify such melodies
Certainly it is not so easy for them as for the Poles - for me it was almost a
wonder that they didn't start singing along with the hymn at the première
in Lublin. But even if one doesn't know this melody from earliest times, its particular
character does come across. Gregorian chant has been for centuries - somewhere
deep in the foundations - and still is an integral element of western music.
you compose, do you think primarily about your audience, or is the musical structure
the main concern for you? Concretely: would you sacrifice an idea for a more pleasing
I would not do that. But for me, however, the triangular relationship composer
- performer - listener remains a constant challenge. In this my opinion differs
from that of my art-for-art's-sake colleagues, who obviously have not understood
their place in the social order.
Do you see a chance of reducing the gulf between the composer and the audience
The composers must become aware of the role that they have to play.
A personal question: you have six sons. Are there musicians amongst them?
Hummel: Five have become professional musicians, one a theologian. And amongst the musicians, two are composers. One writes in a very avant-garde style. Compared to him, Helmut Lachenmann is an "Old Master".
Göttinger Tageblatt, 30th March, 1998
Hummel's music appeals to the feelings and is very effective. Some effects are slightly theatrical, but they are always used with a good sense of the total dramatic plan. And all saxophonists can be grateful to Hummel for providing this instrument, often unfairly dismissed as an accoutrement of light entertainment, with such a powerfully expressive concerto in the realm of "serious" music. Saxophonists can at last occasionally play something else in symphony concerts apart from Glasunov.