Classical Saxophone Literature Resource
by Jay C. Easton
is a series of lists I have compiled of high-quality compositions
for each instrument in the saxophone family, as well as for saxophone
quartet. There are also lists of etude books and texts for saxophonists
and doublers. Most of the standard pieces in the repertoire are included
in these lists, (I have excluded some of my less-than-favorites,)
but it is by no means definitive. Also included are quite a few good
new compositions, and I continually add pieces to this list as I discover
them. Some of the newest pieces are not published, and you may have
to contact the composer directly if this is the case. These days,
many composers and most publishers have a website, so it's much easier
to find repertoire than it used to be!
There are many quality transcriptions available for saxophone of baroque, classical, and romantic works originally written for violin, flute, cello, etc. I have included only a few of these in my lists, but they are an important part of a saxophonist's repertoire and musical education, and should not be neglected. Many of these transcriptions have been published, and classicsax.com is a good source for young students, but I also strongly encourage students to find music they like from the 18th and 19th centuries, and to transcribe these works themselves. Explore the music of the great masters of the past- it is only in this area that other instruments have any musical advantage over the saxophone!
It is imperative for the long-term survival of the saxophone that the music we share with the public is quality music, not merely "new" or "different." Know your audience- a recital at a University may call for different music than a concert series at a church. Most audiences want us to be a musican first and a saxophonist second. To me the ideal concert program leaves the audience entertained, challenged, enlightened, and emotionally moved. It can be tempting from a performer's standpoint to program a concert of all of the newest and most challenging music that can be found, but a balanced program will often reward the audience better by letting the natural beauty and amazing abilities of the instrument speak for themselves, and by letting the performer make a real emotional connection with the listeners.
goal is not perfection, but expression."
The grading system usually ranges from 1-6 increasing in difficulty level. There is not a standard scale for this grading system and it varies by publisher- some versions of this scale only go up to 5, but here I'm using 6.
Grade 1 & 2- Beginner: Usually appropriate for people in their first year or two on the instrument, with simple rhythms, long notes, and emphasis on expression rather than finger technique.
Grade 3 & 4- Intermediate: Often good for confident high school-level players or first-year college students. Often have faster tempi and more technical passages.
Grade 5- Advanced: Appropriate for strong high school and most college players, requires a more developed sense of musicality. Often uses full traditional range of the instrument, possibly with limited altissimo.
Grade 6- Difficult: Music for people who are up for a challenge: a grade 6 piece takes time and commitment to work through challenges of technique, rhythm, ensemble, and mature musical expression. Advanced altissimo often required, multiphonics and microtones are often used, and improvisation is sometimes required. Usually played by advanced college players and professionals.
Grade 7- Really, REALLY Hard: 21st-Century virtuoso showpiece. Most anything written for John-Edward Kelly or composed by Christian Lauba could be considered a grade 7 piece. People are free to disagree with me on this. Intense and extensive use of extended techniques, microtones, etc. A great challenge, and can be very rewarding if you are willing to put in the necessary effort. Exciting stuff, but be prepared for a lot of work.
Selected Sheet Music Links
material © Jay Easton 2001-2010 unless otherwise noted