MacMillan's Saxophone Concerto takes the Saxophone into unusual territory

Saxophone concerto MacMillan Saxophone Concerto

credit. Philip Gatward

Newest concert from the Contribution to New Music in Scotland 2017 winner

There are few composers alive today who could boast an equal contribution to new music in their home country as Ayrshire-born James MacMillan. Having just picked up the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Award for Contribution to New Music in Scotland in 2017 at the Scottish Awards for New Music, Scottish audiences will be treated to the latest worldwide premiere of MacMillan's work – his Saxophone Concerto, written for solo saxophone and string orchestra.

'I'd written for saxophone before, but was excited to write for it as a solo instrument,' says MacMillan, who's penned the work for Australian virtuoso saxophonist Amy Dickson. MacMillan, who's known for melding musical influences from ancient Celtic lullabies to raucous modern jazz, takes the saxophone into more unusual territory with this Scottish-folk inspired piece.

'The first movement draws on traditional Scottish dances – a march, strathspey and reel – and the second is inspired by a Gaelic psalm, with the saxophone as the cantor and the strings following.' Gaelic psalm singing –where the cantor leads and the congregation follow closely behind in song– is a mesmerising style of devotional singing common to the Western Isles, and Macmillan's musical take on this, with the haunting yet piercing tones of the saxophone leading the sonorous strings of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is sure to be something very special indeed. The third and final movement in this 'succinct' 15-minute concerto bears the title 'Jigs', and is a fun and fast-paced interpretation of the traditional Scottish dance.

Paired with another Saxophone Concerto – the final work from Russian composer Alexander Glazunov, written in 1934 – this concert is a rare chance to hear not only two works which showcase the saxophone in a concerto context, but to witness such a sensational player as Amy Dickson perform two greatly contrasting works.

Perth Concert Hall, Wed 11 Apr; Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 12 Apr; City Halls, Glasgow, Fri 13 Apr.

SCO: Macmillan Saxophone Concerto

Joseph Swensen conducts Sibelius's Pelléas et Mélisande, the world premiere of Sir James MacMillan's Saxophone Concerto; Glazunov's Saxophone Concerto and Beethoven's Symphony No 8. With guest soloist Amy Dickson.