Concerto for Stan Getz

Sir Richard Rodney Bennett

Concerto for Stan Getz

About this work

Richard Rodney Bennett's Concerto for Stan Getz is that rare thing, a crossover work conceived and completed not because a record company thought it would be profitable but because both artists wanted to try something new. First impetus came from Getz; while preparing a concert of Gershwin arrangements with the Boston Pops, the veteran jazzman noted that it would be nice to have a saxophone concerto to present as well. Conductor John Williams agreed, and knew just the man to do the job. Although Bennett had a career in jazz performance as well as classical composition, he had never before mixed the two musics. However, Bennett was eager to work with Getz, whose career had flowered just as Bennett became interested in jazz during the 1950s. Bennett completed the concerto in 1990; unfortunately, Getz was not able to play it before his death in 1991.

Bennett scored the Concerto for Stan Getz for solo tenor saxophone, strings, and timpani; the division between the "jazz" soloist and the "classical" orchestra helps to create a sense of two musical worlds meeting. The meeting is uneasy at first, with churning in the strings interrupted by stabbing chords; the soloist's attempts at lyricism are occasionally cut off, and the resulting melody mainly comes from syncopated repeated notes or triplets. A second subject, however, has more jazz in it, as the saxophone floats an easy melody over the strings. A subtle tension persists until the long cadenza, which embraces virtuoso techniques from all over the place and uses them in the unpredictable service of both melodies. The second movement, titled "Elegy" for obvious reasons, opens with a sighing melody on the strings that immediately contrasts with a distant, cool melody in the saxophone. The movement maintains its reserve for a while, but eventually more explicit emotion breaks out, subtly encouraged by the timpani and ending with rich, sad chords. Repeated notes, syncopated in a "rat-a-tat-tat" rhythm, dominate the third movement. The saxophone attempts to construct a melody from these at a "Con brio" tempo, while the strings act to influence the melody's shape. The constant movement leads to an exciting conclusion.