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Saxophones, Symphonies and Sydney

Bienen’s Tim McAllister premieres ‘Saxophone Concerto’ at Sydney Opera House

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August 20, 2013 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Timothy McAllister, associate professor of saxophone at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, will premiere “Saxophone Concerto” at the iconic Sydney Opera House in Australia this week.

The premiere is a major coup for the music school because of two Northwestern connections -- McAllister’s performance and John Adams, the first recipient of the Bienen School’s prestigious Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, who wrote “Saxophone Concerto” and will conduct McAllister and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Aug. 22 and 23 performances.

It is evident that McAllister and Adams enjoy a mutual respect for each other’s talents. Adams wrote the concerto for McAllister after he played the saxophone part in Adam’s composition “City Noir” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009. For McAllister, working with the Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning Adams has fulfilled a major personal and professional aspiration.

The Saxophone Concerto was co-commissioned by the Baltimore, St. Louis, São Paulo State, and Sydney Symphony Orchestras. Read more.

This fall, McAllister gives the first North American performances of Adams’s new “Saxophone Concerto” and records the 32-minute score for Nonesuch. McAllister performs with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop on Friday, Sept. 20 (8 p.m.) at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, repeated on Sept. 21 (8 p.m.) and 22 (3 p.m.). 

Then, David Robertson leads McAllister and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in “Saxophone Concerto” on Saturday, Oct. 5 (8 p.m.) and Sunday, Oct. 6 (3 p.m.) at Powell Hall. Listeners worldwide may catch a broadcast and live stream of the Oct. 5 concert at www.stlpublicradio.org. Recording sessions with Robertson and the SLSO follow in October for a future Nonesuch recording pairing “Saxophone Concerto” with the orchestra’s performance of Adams’s “City Noir,” which McAllister also premiered.

In an upcoming interview with the Bienen School’s Fanfare magazine, McAllister said he has wanted Adams to write a composition for him since his days as a graduate student. 

“During my doctoral thesis defense in 2002, one of my advisors asked me to name the composer I would most like to commission -- assuming that money was no object,” McAllister said. “While I explained that there were many composers with whom I’d like to work, there was never a question that John Adams would be at the top of my list. He’s remained there for a decade.”

McAllister, an internationally acclaimed concert saxophone performer whose career has encompassed many recital, orchestral, chamber and concerto performances, joined the Bienen School last fall. 

For the past 14 years, he has been a member of PRISM Quartet, which has dedicated itself to the commissioning, performance and recording of new work. McAllister also serves as the co-director of the music school’s Institute for New Music, which was born out of the school’s strategic plan completed a year ago in recognition of the Music Library’s unrivaled collection of post-World War II printed music and related archival material. 

Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of the Bienen School of Music, plans to attend the premier in Sydney this week. 

While in Sydney, Montgomery will host a reception prior to the Aug. 23 evening performance for Northwestern alumni, with a pre-concert discussion to follow. There are more than 100 alums in Sydney and approximately 16 are graduates of the Bienen School; several of them play in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.