Francis Bacon, In Memory of George Dyer (1971)

In my opinion, this work will be one of the most challenging pieces of the repertoire for baritone saxophone due to its very demanding high technical level and expressive performance

JOSÉ LUIS CAMPANA (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1949) is a renamed composer based in Paris (France) since 1979, where he finished his studies in composition with the best European masters. His production has a copious amount of music genres and many of his works have been premiered and performed in the most important contemporary music festivals in the world. At the same time, he also was analyse and contemporary music professor at CNSMD Paris.

Read more about the composer, here 

Details of TROIS RÊVES EN MUSIQUE

Babel Scores, Paris (F). 16 pages. Purchase it here. Duration: ca. 10:30. Contemporary music.

Level: VERY DIFFICULT. Range (written): A2 – B6

Technical elements: Wide palette of dynamics and timbres. Glissandi and portamenti. Diversity of articulations. Very fast and intense vibratos. Microtones (1/4 of tones). Smorzatti. Flatterzunge. Extreme altissimo register.

Performance: To play with lots of expressive energy. To create very intense, perturbing and even violent frames of mind. Scenic attitude. Very contrasted changes of character.

Meaning and structure of TROIS RÊVES EN MUSIQUE

This work was commissioned by the “Association Bar&Co” and dedicated to the great master of the classical music baritone saxophone player, Eric Devallon. Eric Devallon and José Luis Campana gave a workshop of this piece and the premiere of the first movement (then, the work was still in progress) at the 4th International Baritone Saxophone Summit, held in Ambazac (France) in October 2011.

Due to the illness of Eric Devallon (R.I.P.), the composition process was interrupted several times and the complete premiere of that work in three movements was done at Andorra Sax-Fest (Andorra la Vella, Andorra) in May 2014. Some time later, that work was completely reviewed and definitely presented with another title (its current name) at the 17th World Saxophone Congress, SaxOpen, in Strasbourg (France) in July 2015. The final version of this work was recorded in my album Believer.

The three musical dreams represented in this work are very different but have a common element: intensity. I briefly describe them:

  • The first one, “Cauchemar” (nightmare), is a short movement with lot of agitation (with very fast trills and vibratos and very marked accellerandi and diminuendi) that progressively disappear at the very end of the movement.
  • In the second one, “Sulla strada” (on the street), the composer imagines a jazz saxophone player or an Afro-American musician improvising freely on the street. Its strong rhythmic character scales throughout the dream creating instability.
  • The third one, “A Bacon (1909-1992)”, shows the complex personality of the Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon. This movement creates a disturbing atmosphere built on three sections with successive accellerandi and crescendo more and more longer, which explodes in a madness attack and a long cry of anguish in the extreme of the altissimo register of the baritone saxophone. Next, the dream progressively dilutes into the calm in the low register of the instrument.

TROIS RÊVES EN MUSIQUE must be also played with a tam (gong), but the tam part is not difficult at all. Tam is used to produce resonances and give a special colour, especially in the first and third movements. So, it would be great to have a biggest as possible tam and to play with the bell of the baritone as close as possible to the tam.

Watch the video:

How to work on TROIS RÊVES EN MUSIQUE

The indications of the score are very precise, the notation is conventional and, despite no having divisions in bars except for the second movement, the reading is clear.

Before starting working TROIS RÊVES EN MUSIQUE, you should have a good control of the technique of the instrument if you don’t want to ‘suffer’ (anyway, let the audience ‘suffer’ because of the excellent quality of your performance in some moments of the work).

First, you should master the extremes of the instrument: to be able to play the low one in very soft dynamics and, on the other hand, able to play the altissimo one both the louder and softer possible, flatters until the B5 and very fast excerpts. You can check my Altissimo Fingerings Chart on this link. I hope you find it useful!

You should also have a large number of articulations and agility in the tonguing so you would almost have to imitate a great diversity of percussion instruments like bongos, drums, etc. in the second movement. Both in the first and third movements, you must be able to play the softer and louder as possible in extreme dynamics as well.

Other elements: vibratos must always be played very fast (even, they could sound like uncontrolled at certain times) to express anguish or panic atmospheres. The quarter of tones appear at the end of the last dream, in the low register. If you want, check my Quarter of Tones Chart in this link.

Two of the aspects that José Luis Campana highlighted the most during the preparation of TROIS RÊVES EN MUSIQUE (both for the two premieres and before the recording of the piece) were, first, it should be performed like it was an improvisation and, second, to always try to surprise the audience when playing it.

I mean, make it as if the music was yours, as if it was not written, in order to play it freely. José Luis Campana told me that, sometimes, before starting the reading of his music, he likes to work with his performers some kind of improvisations on the cells or the motives written in his works. So, the performer feels more free to play the written part.

To surprise the audience, you can play by greatly exaggerating the dynamics, the alterations of tempi (ritardandi and accelerandi) and playing with lots of determination and even with vehemence. The commas that appear frequently in the score will help you to stop and resume the musical discourse as you like but without breaking its continuity of the discourse.

Finally, TROIS RÊVES EN MUSIQUE also has a theatrical character. You can move to accentuate this character: let the tam sounds when play it, stay quiet at breaks (both at short commas and the changes of movements) and strengthen the musical discourse with your energy.

Come in! As I said at the very beginning of this post, you are faced with one of the most challenging works of the repertoire for baritone saxophone. I wish you a lot of success.

If you want to know more about TROIS RÊVES EN MUSIQUE, don’t hesitate to contact me