The Ballade for saxophone and piano is the first in a series of similarly titled works by Frank Martin, each of which features a different instrument in a prominent role. This work, nearly 15 minutes long, has the dimensions of a single-movement concerto. The particular instrument called for is the alto saxophone, whose solo repertoire at the time was rather slender. Martin deftly explores the instrument's still-emerging possiblities -- using it, for example, in the far reaches of what was then its upper range. Though much of the rhythmic activity in is marked by syncopation, the composer makes no overt reference to the saxophone's associations with jazz and popular music. Martin makes notable use of dissonant sonorities in the work, lending considerable harmonic spice. Like most of the Ballades, this one was first written with piano accompaniment and later orchestrated.
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Description by Joseph Stevenson