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BRANT CONCERTO

Overview

Pulitzer prize-winning composer Henry Brant made significant contributions to American contemporary music throughout his career.   His Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, written during Brant’s Americana and Satire period, re-interprets the style and rhythms of jazz and folk music to create a work that speaks to all audiences.   In a similar fashion to Brant’s teacher and mentor Aaron Copland, the work is deceptive in its melodic simplicity while presenting challenges to both the soloist and orchestra.   In fact, the Concerto’s use of innovative techniques such as slap-tongue, flutter-tongue and extended altissimo made the work virtually unplayable by most for nearly fifty years with the exception of the saxophone virtuoso Sigurd Rascher for whom the Concerto was written.   This fact led the composer to publish an alternate chamber version, leaving the original in relative obscurity.

Although many saxophonists have approached Brant in recent years about performing the original orchestral version, Dr. Noah Getz was the first to be granted a performance with orchestra since Rascher’s last performance in 1953.   During hours of interviews and lessons, Brant communicated the meaning of the work to Dr. Getz.   This thorough knowledge of the Concerto allows Dr. Getz to perform the work with a clear understanding of the stylistic intentions of the composer.   Important both for its musical artistry and cultural legacy, Henry Brant’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra will challenge and delight both orchestra members and audiences.

Background

Dr. Henry Brant was the youngest member of the Young Composers Group.   Led by Aaron Copland during the early 1930’s, the group was a veritable think tank of the most prominent emerging musical talents in New York City.   While each had their own distinct style, one trend emerged that would have lasting effects on the cultural and musical heritage of the United States.   This trend would use the folk music of the United States as its inspiration and musical material.   While not a new idea in European Art Music (Composers such as Bartok, Stravinsky and Dvorak had incorporated folk music from their native countries throughout the beginning of the 20 th century to create some of their most important and enduring works) it would prove to be the path that led to one of America’s most important contributions to art music in the 20 th century.   The most famous examples were written by their mentor, Aaron Copland, and included works such as Rodeo, Appalachian Spring and Fanfare for the Common Man .   Brant, the youngest member of the group, wrote concertos incorporating Americana that pre-dated most of these compositions.   Brant’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, written at the height of this movement, is an excellent example of a work that successfully uses American folk music for inspiration.   Recorded interviews with Brant reveal a highly articulate and innovative advocate of American Music who speaks about the Concerto at length and provides a picture of the musical and artistic environment that was the source of this important music.

While many know Copland’s Americana works through numerous recordings and frequent use in movies and television, few know the broader context that allowed these works to be created.   This American musical legacy must be passed to future generations.   Creating a recording of Brant’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra and including excerpts of the Brant interviews and musical examples illustrating musical Americana will shed light on this important musical innovation.   Henry Brant has requested my involvement in bringing this work to a larger audience through performances and this recording project.

Letter of Recommendation

January 2003

To Whom it May Concern:

This is to confirm that Noah Getz has studied my Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra intensively under my guidance, during 2001, that I consider him fully capable of performing it at the highest level of excellence, and that I recommend him as a soloist of the first rank in this work whenever the occasion may arise.

Henry Brant
Santa Barbara , California

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