The Saxophone Concerto of Ingolf Dahl

The Saxophone Concerto of Ingolf Dahl:
A Historical and Comparative Analysis
by Paul Martin Cohen

The Concerto for Alto Saxophone by Ingolf Dahl, one of the great works in the saxophone repertoire, exists today in a revised form substantially different from the original version. From the time of its composition (1948) to its publication (1980), it endured an undocumented, enigmatic history of revision and performance that reflected changing attitudes of composer and the varying abilities of the soloists involved in its presentations. As a result of several major revisions, only some of which were publicly acknowledged by Dahl, the Concerto was radically transformed into the work known today.

Composed in 1948 for the saxophone virtuoso Sigurd Rascher, the concerto was scored for full concert band with a duration of 26 minutes. The solo saxophone part, formidably difficult within the conventional key range, extensively utilized the top-tone (altissimo) register in accordance with Rascher's requests and abilities.

Despite critical acclaim for this version, including enthusiastic responses from Stravinsky and Cowell, Dahl revised the work in 1953. He changed the concert band instrumentation to orchestral winds, rewrote the last movement, and simplified the solo saxophone part. Among many changes, the necessity of playing within the altissimo range was eliminated. The length of this version is approximately the same as the original (1949) version.

From 1957 to 1959, Dahl revised the concerto for a second time. These revisions consisted almost exclusively of cuts and deletions of extended sections in the second and third movements. With over seven minutes (approximately 25% of the work) deleted, the length of this last version--that which is available today--is 18-19 minutes.

As part of a comprehensive examination of this concerto, this paper 1) traces the origin, composition, early performances, and revisions of the concerto, 2) offers a detailed comparative analysis of the different version, and 3) examines possible reasons and motivations for such changes.


Chapter I:
Biography of Ingolf Dahl
Chapter II:
History of the Concerto
Origin and Composition
Early Performances
Revision I
Revision II
Publication and Recording
Chapter III:
Comparative Analysis of the Revisions
Alterations of the Solo Part
Deletions and Cuts
Addition of New Music
Music Unique to the 1953
Chapter IV:
The Question of Revisions
Chapter V:
Appendixes A:
List of performances (original version), Sigurd Rascher, alto saxophone soloist
Appendixes B:
Programs of early Concerto performances
Appendixes C:
Review of the published edition
Appendixes D:
Sinfonietta for Concert Band: Lecture presented by Ingolf Dahl at the 13th National Conference of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), Tempe, Arizona, December 1964.

To Order offline:
Please include $4.00 postage and handling for each order.
Make checks payable to Paul Cohen and mail to:

Paul Cohen
To The Fore Publishers
420 Lantana Ave
Englewood, NJ, 07631