17 Great Classical Saxophone Music Pieces & Saxophone Solos

Classical Saxophone Music & Saxophone Solo Song
Classical Saxophone Music & Saxophone Solo Song

Are you are fan of classical saxophone music? The saxophone is one of the best classical instruments that dates back to 1814. The inventor of the Saxophone was Adolphe Sax and the instrument is versatile.

With the passage of time, the instrument has become one of the most crucial instruments in jazz. In classical music, the saxophone was used as a solo instrument in various environments including piano, orchestra, and wind band.

Moreover, the saxophone was used as an orchestral voice. Mostly the saxophone was as a solo voice, but some used it in various music settings. In classical music, some of the notable composers of saxophone include:

  • Rachmaninoff
  • Berg
  • Prokofiev
  • Britten
  • Villa-Lobos
  • Milhaud
  • George Gershwin

The work of classical saxophone keeps expanding and it is difficult for someone new to classical music knows where to start. In this write-up, we have focused on some of the great classical saxophone music pieces in no particular order.

17 Great Classical Saxophone Music Pieces / Saxophone Solo Song

  1. Rhapsody For Alto Saxophone

This classical saxophone music was composed by Claude Debussy. It was requested in 1903 by Elisa Hall, President of the Boston Orchestral Club. Debussy didn’t know much about the capabilities of this instrument and left it incomplete for several years.

He again started working on the composition in 1911. Debussy sent his draft to Hall in the same year, but the song had gaps in it. In 1918, he died and the composition was still unfinished. Later, Jean Roger-Ducasse finished its composition. It is great music that you will want to listen to again and again.

2. Glazunov Saxophone Concerto

Another classical music is Glazunov Saxophone Concerto. The Russian composer Glazunov wrote this concerto for saxophonist Sigurd Rascher. He performed the 3 short lyrical movements in Sweden in November 1934. The tempo changes as the concerto require the saxophonist to show every skill. The music has smooth cantabile in slow sections. It requires tonal control over the wide range tune as it goes up and down. This music requires effective glissandos and nimble fingering.

3. Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 6

Symphony No.6 was composed in 1946-7, right after World War II. This music was dedicated to Michael Mullinar and was performed by Sir Adrain Boult along with BBC Symphony Orchestra. The music was loved so much that in a year it got 100 performances. It was believed to be the greatest creations of the masters. It is said that Vaughan was so nervous that he wanted to tear the draft. This work of Vaughan was not programmatic, but the audience linked it with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


4. Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet

Another great classical saxophone music is Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev. It was a ballet that was based on the play by Shakespeare. He used the music of the ballet in 3 sets for orchestra. It was composed in September of 1935. You can hear the sax taking the major tone of the Dance and Knights. He gave a brighter and livelier touch to the music with a sax. This classical music will take you of out the world.

5. She’s Funny That Way by Lester Young

The saxophone music She’s Funny That Way was performed by Lester Young. The song was composed by Neil Moret and Richard A. Whiting. The song was recorded in August 1946. In this entire career, this song was the first time Whiting wrote the lyrics for another songwriter. Lester Young was among the influential players of saxophone in the jazz movement. He was one of the main saxophone players in the early 1940s.

6. My Old Flame By Charlie Parker

Another great classical saxophone music is My Old Flame by Charlie Parker. Arthur Johnson and Sam Coslow wrote the song. The song was recorded on 4th November 1947. Charlie Parker was a famous composer and Jazz saxophonist. He was a top star in the development of Bebop. Parker was responsible for introducing revolutionary ideas like rapid passing chords. He introduced modern jazz that paved the way for music in the 20th century.

7. Oh Lady Be Good by Charlie Parker and Lester Young

A great song of saxophone music was the Oh Lady Be Good by Charlie Parker and Lester Young. The two greatest players of jazz saxophone came together to produce a masterpiece. In 1946, both geniuses performed Jazz at the Philharmonic series.  The song is a great combination of hot jazz and high-energy bebop. This is one of the best saxophone songs as two masters enter a fiery jam session.

8. Someone To Watch Over Me By Coleman Hawkins

This is one of the best saxophone solos of all time is Someone To Watch Over Me by Coleman Hawkins. The sound that Hawkins produces is perfect. It seems like every emotion is being pressed to of his saxophone. He was the leader of a great band in 1945 along with a trumpeter Howard McGhee. This song was composed by Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin. The song was recorded on 9th March 1945.

9. I Got It Bad By Ben Webster

Another saxophone music is I Got It Bad by Ben Webster. The lyrics were written by Paul Francis Webster with music by Duke Ellington. The song is a pop and jazz standard that was published in 1944. Ben Webster was a jazz tenor saxophonist and he was one of the most important swing tenors. He had a tough and brutal tone on stomps while on ballads he played with warmth. This song is just perfect.

10. Stairway To The Stars By Benny Carter

The Stairway To The Stars is a piece of great classical saxophone music by Benny Carter. The song was composed by Frank Signorelli and Matt Malneck. The lyrics of the song were written by Mitchell Parish. The song was based on the instrumental music of Malneck Signorelli from Park Avenue Fantasy. Benny was a popular jazz alto saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. He was one of the leading stars from the 1930s to the 1990s.

11. Night Wind By Johnny Hodges

The next good classical saxophone music is Night Wind by Johnny Hodges. The song was recorded in the year 1939. He was an American alto saxophonist who is well-known for his solo performances with Duke Ellington’s band. His career started when joined Duke Ellington’s band. He became the master of the blues. Johnny’s unique style always sounded fresh. Hodges has played with some other players including Lloyd Scott, Lucky Roberts, Sidney Bechet, and Chick Webb.

12. Bolero by Maurice Ravel

This is one of the most important orchestral pieces by a French composer, Maurice Ravel. It was composed as a ballet ordered by the Russian actress Ida Rubinstein. The Bolero was first performed in 1928 and became Ravel’s most popular musical composition. This solo has defined the distinctive voice of the saxophone as interesting and alluring in the orchestra. Bolero is a great song that you can listen to when you want to relax or study.

13. Symphonic Dances by Rachmaninoff

The Symphonic Dances is an orchestral set that was completed in 1940 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The saxophone solo in the first set is a combination of melancholy and nostalgia. It was Rachmaninoff’s last composition that represents the style of the composer with curiosity. The 3 note-motif is introduced silently but quickly follows staccato chords and has rhythmic movement. The first symphony was inspired by Russian church music.

14. Job by Vaughan Williams

Another classical saxophone music is Job by Vaughan Williams. This music received a lot of attention all over the world. This symphony is cast in 9 scenes and the Williams divides the 5th scene into 2. The story of this music revolves around Satan’s menacing of the job. It shows Satan provoking the curse of God and in the end, Satan is defeated. As result, the job becomes stronger and humble.

15. Richard Rodney Bennett – Saxophone Concerto, 1st & 2nd Movement

Richard did a concerto for Stan Getz. It is an amazing fusion of jazz harmonies and modernism. This music was dedicated to John Harle between July and September 1988. The running time of the music was 16 minutes.  Richard was very happy to share his work in November 1990. Stan died before the piece was finished and Richard performed by John Harle. This music was composed with the collaboration of saxophonist John Harle.

16. Hidden Love Song by Mark-Anthony Turnage

Mark-Anthony with the cooperation of Martin Robertson has produced a masterpiece. This music was created for Soprano Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra. He is a well-known English composer of classical music. He has created a perfect mixture of jazz and classical music. The music is very pleasant that is great for listening to when you want to relax. Mark has produced many orchestral and chamber works along with 3 full-length operas.

17. Nixon in China by John Adams

The classical saxophone music Nixon in China is created in 3 acts by John Adams. He had worked in collaboration with Alice Goodman. The work of Adam was inspired by the visit of President Nixon to China. Adam premiered his work in October 1987 at the Houston Grand Opera. This brings the quartet of saxophones in the center and the energy of this piece propels. Nixon in China is great if you want to listen to great saxophone music.

Classical Saxophone Music is Great

In the end, classical saxophone music is great for relaxation, studying, and even sleeping. With this classical music, you can get a clear idea of where to begin. All the composers have made huge efforts in understanding what saxophone sounds like.

They have dedicated a lot of time to understand what it can do expressively and how they can use it. Classical music has made the music industry interesting.  Which song do you think is great for listening to? Let us know in the comments below.

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