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Hello. My son is 13 and needs to choose a piece to play in an audition (NYSSMA, Level 6). His teacher suggested Gould's Diversions, but this little guy doesn't appreciate twentieth century music yet. I'm not worried -- he's only 13, and has plenty of time yet to discover the joys of modern music -- but I'd like to help him find a piece he connects with more easily. Last year he did a level 5 on bari, Schumann's Romance, and it went great. This year, he was working (on bari) on Bach Sonata No 6 (Mule), transcription for alto sax of the flute sonata in G Major (concert key), movements entitled: Adagio, ma non tanto; Allegro, ma non troppo; Siciliano, Allegro assai: http://www.hickeys.com/music/contes.../products/sku001321-bach-mule-sonata-no-6.php

The Bach was going great but the child is reluctant to audition on bari because he says the bari parts at the NYSSMA and NYSBDA festivals are deadly boring and easy. His teacher at school does not advise him to audition on alto, because there's so much competition for alto. Also, the child plays primarily tenor and bari. They seem to suit his temperament, body build, etc.

There are some Bach pieces on the list of Level 6 pieces NYSSMA would accept for tenor, but they are all transcriptions of cello suites. I am concerned about the preludes not working very well on the saxophone, at least, for an intermediate player.

Here is the list of remaining options:
Bennett Sonata for Soprano Sax
Bonneau Caprice
DiPasquale Sonata
Fiocco/Londeix Concerto
Frackenpohl Sonata
Hartley Concertino
Hartley Sonata
Karlins Music for Tenor Sax and Piano
Lacour Pièce Concertante
Martin Ballade
Peck UPward Stream
Schmidt Concerto
Stein Sonata
Villa-Lobos Fantasia
Ward Concerto
Zwilich Episodes

I need some help. I'm a cellist and the only composer I'm familiar with from this list is Villa Lobos.

Can you help us narrow down the list of choices? Ideally, we'd like to find a piece that is tonal, approachable for a young, unsophisticated musician, and reasonably playable. He is a solid Level 6, not a high flyer as of yet. Thank you!
 

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There are some Bach pieces on the list of Level 6 pieces NYSSMA would accept for tenor, but they are all transcriptions of cello suites. I am concerned about the preludes not working very well on the saxophone, at least, for an intermediate player.
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "working well." IMO, the Bach suites work very well on saxophone, if the player can handle them. (The edition I have is the Kynaston.) I assume that the selections wouldn't be listed if they weren't suitable for a performer of the indicated ability level. I don't know exactly which excerpts are the list, but my experience is that the suites' difficulty for sax varies considerably. The hardest is No. 6.

Here is the list of remaining options:
Bennett Sonata for Soprano Sax
Bonneau Caprice
DiPasquale Sonata
Fiocco/Londeix Concerto
Frackenpohl Sonata
Hartley Concertino
Hartley Sonata
Karlins Music for Tenor Sax and Piano
Lacour Pièce Concertante
Martin Ballade
Peck UPward Stream
Schmidt Concerto
Stein Sonata
Villa-Lobos Fantasia
Ward Concerto
Zwilich Episodes

I need some help. I'm a cellist and the only composer I'm familiar with from this list is Villa Lobos.
Bear in mind that I'm neither a teacher nor a professional concert saxophonist. From that list, however, I'd probably recommend the Peck, and maybe the Hartley Sonata. Not for lack of technical challenges, but for general tunefulness and suitability to the instrument. "The Upward Stream" is a tenor sax concerto, and really shows off the instrument well. I don't think I would like to audition on tenor by playing a piece intended for soprano, such as the Bennett or Villa Lobos, although I like both works. Some of the other works are perhaps more abstract than your 13-year-old would enjoy.
 

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"There are some Bach pieces on the list of Level 6 pieces NYSSMA would accept for tenor, but they are all transcriptions of cello suites. I am concerned about the preludes not working very well on the saxophone, at least, for an intermediate player."
Hello. I've spent a great deal of time on the Bach cello suites and have recorded them on the four primary saxophones: soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. They are challenging on saxophone, some more than others but I've received excellent reviews and feedback on the recordings. I have also published a performance edition for saxophone in the original keys which turned out very nice. My primary influence for my initial interpretations are the recordings by Rostropovich. I spent years researching, performing and recording these pieces. My editions do specify Eb, Bb or baritone saxophone but are playable on any, they would just sound in a different key. If interested more information is on my website at www.andrewdahlke.com. Let me know if you have more questions. All best to you! Sounds like your son is a good player!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you. I'm reconsidering the Bach cello suites. I listened to a recording of several movements of No. 2 and was pretty much sold on it. The prelude wasn't packed with string crossings like many of the preludes are, which was the reason I was staying away from the cello suites. But the way the chords in other movements were interpreted, as two grace notes before the main note, concerns me. The chords have to be done this way. The only alternative would be to leave out the other voices of the chords, which would be weird. Anyway, it seems quite challenging.

I went ahead and bought a collection of Bach for the saxophone, Ethos Publications, transcribed and edited by Caravan, because that's what my local music shop said was needed for NYSSMA tenor Level 6.

This book has Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Minuets I and II, and Gigue, which sounds like... the whole thing! I need to find out exactly which movements NYSSMA requires.

My son really likes his current piece, but NYSSMA won't take it for tenor, only bari or alto. My son wants to try to make the switch to alto, but I'm not so sure. He tried to that last year (his second year playing saxophone), and it didn't go very well. He kept saying his mouth hurt after playing alto.

His band teacher said alto would be a risky choice in terms of being accepted for the festival weekends (NYSSMA, NYSBDA) because "altos are a dime a dozen."
 

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The Prelude from Suite No. 2 is one of my favorite Baroque pieces to play on the saxophone. It's very soulful, but quite manageable technically. Here's a good sax version (on baritone; I play it on tenor or alto because I don't have a baritone):

 

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Thank you. I'm reconsidering the Bach cello suites. I listened to a recording of several movements of No. 2 and was pretty much sold on it. The prelude wasn't packed with string crossings like many of the preludes are, which was the reason I was staying away from the cello suites. But the way the chords in other movements were interpreted, as two grace notes before the main note, concerns me. The chords have to be done this way. The only alternative would be to leave out the other voices of the chords, which would be weird. Anyway, it seems quite challenging.

I went ahead and bought a collection of Bach for the saxophone, Ethos Publications, transcribed and edited by Caravan, because that's what my local music shop said was needed for NYSSMA tenor Level 6.

This book has Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Minuets I and II, and Gigue, which sounds like... the whole thing! I need to find out exactly which movements NYSSMA requires.

My son really likes his current piece, but NYSSMA won't take it for tenor, only bari or alto. My son wants to try to make the switch to alto, but I'm not so sure. He tried to that last year (his second year playing saxophone), and it didn't go very well. He kept saying his mouth hurt after playing alto.

His band teacher said alto would be a risky choice in terms of being accepted for the festival weekends (NYSSMA, NYSBDA) because "altos are a dime a dozen."
Hello again. I have been teaching the saxophone for many years and am the saxophone professor at the University of Northern Colorado. My perspective is that if your son continues to be serious about playing saxophone long term it is wise to get going with alto at some point. In terms of concert music, most of the repertoire is written for alto. If he were to teach as well it would be important to play alto and learn the repertoire. I would just recommend a good teacher to work on the embouchure changes. It is a little harder to go from a larger to a smaller mouthpiece in my experience but really not all that difficult with guidance. There are intonation differences but technically all the saxophones are very similar, the difference comes in sound, voicing, intonation, and response. I also love the 2nd cello suite. I will get a sample up here shortly. Let me know if you have any questions any time. Best!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks so much for your comments, Andy. I got him to give Suite No. 2 a try! He tried a couple movements when I was sitting with him, and it went well enough that I heard him going a bit farther another day on his own. I was surprised to find that the pseudo chords weren't as hard as I thought they'd be. Frankly, triple stops (chords) on a string instrument are harder because they're hard to get in tune.

I checked the NYSSMA manual at my local music shop and found that they require all movements from that Suite except the Courante.

About the alto. I think you're probably right, that he needs some specialized help with the alto embouchure. But when he signed up for trombone at school a few years ago, he got very frustrated because two lessons were canceled due to fire drills and then one day the teacher was out sick and another she was at a workshop. He was getting so fed up that I set up a couple of private lessons. They were so helpful that we kept going. But I can't afford another set of private lessons now. It's like the potato chip commercial, you can't just have one.

His band teacher is very good but he is a brass player originally, and it is really very hard for one person to be an expert in all the wind instruments. I guess the best thing would be to rent an alto and ask the band teacher at school to let him bring the alto to his weekly lessons for some specific embouchure guidance. He is a very good teacher but perhaps not the most flexible person in the world.

Another thing a private teacher can help with is choosing an instrument to purchase. It was easy to buy a used trombone online, but I feel more daunted about choosing a saxophone.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks so much for your comments, Andy. I got him to give Suite No. 2 a try! He tried a couple movements when I was sitting with him, and it went well enough that I heard him going a bit farther another day on his own. I was surprised to find that the pseudo chords weren't as hard as I thought they'd be. Frankly, triple stops (chords) on a string instrument are harder because they're hard to get in tune.

I checked the NYSSMA manual at my local music shop and found that they require all movements from that Suite except the Courante.

About the alto. I think you're probably right, that he needs some specialized help with the alto embouchure. But when he signed up for trombone at school a few years ago, he got very frustrated because two lessons were canceled due to fire drills and then one day the teacher was out sick and another she was at a workshop. He was getting so fed up that I set up a couple of private lessons. They were so helpful that we kept going. But I can't afford another set of private lessons now. It's like the potato chip commercial, you can't just have one.

His band teacher is very good but he is a brass player originally, and it is really very hard for one person to be an expert in all the wind instruments. I guess the best thing would be to rent an alto and ask the band teacher at school to let him bring the alto to his weekly lessons for some specific embouchure guidance. He is a very good teacher but perhaps not the most flexible person in the world.
 

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I was forced to play the Pasquale as it was the only Grade 7 recognized by FBA (Florida) and I wasn't in love with it lyrically. I grew to love it because of the studying I had to do for some of the articulation/ octave support to make it project properly. It became invaluable to me in college studying for standard pieces like the Creston Sonata, Rhapsodie, etc.

If he doesn't play the Pasquale, buy it anyway if he's going to play in college on tenor he'll be glad he had it in the bag at audition time.
 

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Migraine777:

I agree with you on the DiPasquale Sonata.

Even if you're "just" playing it for practice material. I find the 2nd movement to be outstanding for working on clean breaks between octaves and for the bottom of the horn at low dynamic levels.

I think it was the only grade VII when I was in high school in Florida as well in the early 1980s.
 
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