When it comes to Classical music and the Orchestra, the saxophone is not the first instrument that comes to mind. But on December 7 and 8 the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra featured two compositions with the saxophones as the featured instrument.

The saxophone is a relative late comer in the ancient world of musical instruments, having come on the scene in 1846.

Since that time, saxophone players have been clamouring for composers to include them in their works.

Recently 25 American Classical saxophone players joined together to commission American composer Kenneth Fuchs to create a work for the saxophone and orchestra. The result was “Rush Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra”.

One of those 25 musicians who commissioned the work was Timothy McAllister who played the work with the London Syphony Orchestra with BPO Musical Director Joann Falletta conducting. Earlier this year the album including “Rush” won a Grammy Award at the annual awards gala.

With guest conductor Thomas Wilkins leading the Orchestra the program opened with the “Overture to La Gazza Ladra” by Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini.

Timothy McAllitster took the stage to perform the Kenneth Fuchs composition “Rush Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra” with Fuchs in the house. In the pre concert talk, Fuchs noted that composers Aaron Copeland and Leonard Berstein were major influences for his work. In “Rush” the influence of Copeland and his “Appalachian Spring” were very evident.

Finishing out the first half of the program, McAllister returned to the stage for a performance of the “Concerto in E-flat Major for Saxophone and String Orchestra, Op 109” by Aleksandr Glazunov.

After the intermission, Wilkins and the BPO return to the stage for “Lyric for String” by George Walker – the first African-American to be awarded the PhD for Doctor of Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

The musical program concluded with the Felix Mendelssohn composition “Symphony No 4 in A Major, Op 90” also known as the “Italian”.