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Guillaume Connesson

Lost horizon 

By Steve Carmichael

Guillaume Connesson - Lost Horizon

Brussels Philharmonic

Stephane Deneve, Conductor

Timothy McAllister, Alto and Soprano Saxophone

Renaud Capuncon, Violin

Deutsche Grammophon 4818042


Once again, we are blessed to have a new saxophone concerto orchestra. Guillaume Connesson’s A Kind of Trane is truly a gift to our community. 


Guillaume Connesson, born in 1970, is currently one of the most widely performed French composers worldwide. The majority of his compositions are commissions from the likes of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre National de France. 


I first encountered Connesson’s music while studying his Le Rire De Saraï for flute and piano, then his first saxophone work, a transcription of his piece Techno-Paradefor two saxophones and piano. Like the two mentioned works, A Kind of Traneis multi metered, harmonically thick and chromatic, and filled with melodic content that requires technical maturity. Fortunately, we have Timothy McAllister! His performance is stunning. 


The premier was performed by three different saxophonists as the World Saxophone Congress and Festival in Strasbourg in 2015. Shortly thereafter, Timothy MacAllister performed the work as a transcription with the United States Navy Band at the International Saxophone Symposium.


A Kind of Tranepays homage to the great jazz legend John Coltrane, however, if you are expecting to hear MacAllister burn some giant steps changes or going “outside” quoting “live from Newport” you will be disappointed. This is a composition about the spirit of Trane. Connesson evokes the memory of Coltrane and hints at his music by quoting harmonic concepts and a few snippets of Coltrane’s melodies.


The first movement utilizes Coltrane’s implied harmonies from A Love Supremewhile the second movement is based on his recording Ballads. The final movement, Coltrane on the Dance floor, juxtaposes Coltrane’s style of rhythmically free phrasing on top of an unlikely robotic setting of today’s dance music. Upon first listening, I found many hints of Coltrane’s music, in both the harmonic and melodic content. 


It is worth mentioning that this substantial recording of Connesson’s works also has works for orchestra and an amazing violin concerto. I recommend listening to both of these works before the saxophone concert to gain insight into the composer’s harmonic and rhythmic language. You won’t be disappointed!