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Hemke Concerto "Prisms of Light" (2014)

For solo alto saxophone and orchestra

Solo alto saxophone, pic.[4perc]/pno./cel/str

First performance by Frederick L. Hemke (solo saxophone), William Boughton, conductor, the New Haven Symphony, in New Haven, Connecticut, on 27 February 2014
First performance of the now withdrawn Band Version (which was made by an arranger not by Thomas) given by Taimur Sullivan (solo saxophone), Captain Kenneth Collins, commanding officer and music director, conducting the Navy Band, at the International Saxophone Symposium at George Mason University's Center for the Arts Concert Hall in Fairfax, Virginia on 11 January 2019
Duration: 22 minutes


CD Available

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Hemke Concerto - "Prisms of Light" (wind ensemble version)


Hemke Concerto - "Prisms of Light" runs from 1:16-2:20

Program Note

Conductor William Boughton

The dramatic Hemke Concerto, "Prisms of Light" (2014) was commissioned as a retirement gift for legendary saxophonist and pedagogue Frederick L. Hemke by many of his students past and present. (Hemke was Thomas's colleague during her years on the faculty of Northwestern University.) Hemke Concerto represents a new high point for Thomas's pursuit of the luminous — the music truly explodes with sun-infused vigor. The four sections bear typical Thomas titles: Illuminations, Sunrise Ballad, Chasing Radiance, and Solar Rings. The work overall possesses a fast — slow — fast shape, with the duration of the first, second, and third/fourth (combined) sections forming equal thirds of about seven minutes each. The opening "Illuminations" begins with a blaze. The orchestra and saxophone interact spiritedly, with the orchestra often merging the saxophone into its glittering texture. The second section begins slowly and lyrically, and gradually builds in intensity to a sonorous climax. The short third section is a scherzo-like caprice and leads into the final "Solar Rings" — music that raises the energy and luminosity of the opening to a new height, before ending in one of Thomas's most ecstatic blazes. This concerto is music that almost requires the listener to wear sunglasses — exploring fully the saxophone's capacity for both lyrical, human expression and glorious, otherworldly color.

— Carson Cooman

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