About this work
By the 1930s many of France's leading composers were jazz besotted, and Ibert was no exception. His saxophone concertino not only appropriates jazz's most characteristic instrument, but employs plenty of syncopation and, in the slow section, some bluesy material. Still, this is not crossover music, but a classical piece inspired by a few specific pop trends of the day.
The brief work begins with an Allegro con moto entering with a raucous blast from the small ensemble of strings and winds. The soloist quickly bursts in with a percolating tune that eventually makes way for a second subject that croons in the saxophone's high register. Here and in the very brief development section, Ibert maintains a close, complex interplay between the soloist and the little band; indeed, the saxophone is reduced to noodling in the background when the strings take over the second subject.
The Larghetto is a lonely, bluesy solo that sends the saxophone gliding oh-so-gradually up and down its entire range, with the strings entering at length to provide simple support for the sax's ballad-like material. Eventually the woodwinds provide their own paraphrase of the theme, followed by a string statement. Without a break, the concluding Animato molto arrives with jittery material over which the saxophone dances and hovers. One of the soloist's main themes is lyrical but still syncopated. The concertino's only cadenza arrives near the end, a free riff on tiny fragments of the movement's main, sewing-machine theme; soloist and ensemble offer a bright restatement of this main theme in full, scampering to an upbeat conclusion.