Masterclass with Alfonso Padilla

This week at the Conservatory of Boulogne-Billancourt, Goury’s saxophone class participated in a workshop with Spanish Saxophonist Alfonso Padilla.  Padilla is a professor at the Conservatory in Sevilla, Spain, which is connected with Boulogne-Billancourt through the ERASMUS program.

Padilla gave a presentation of contemporary Spanish music for saxophone, and argues that in the development of the saxophone, the 1990’s served as a period of adolescence, and that now in the 2000’s that the instrument has reached maturity.  He referred to pieces such as Rhea (1988) by Francisco Guerrero, Fractal (1991) by Cristóbal Halffter, and Akaitz (1994) by Félix Ibarrondo, all for saxophone ensemble; Lalibela by Xa­vier Car­bo­nell for four bass saxophones and orchestra; composers including Mauricio Sotelo, Luís de Pablo, Jesús Torres, Ferran Ferrer, Alberto Posadas, and many others.  He also performed excerpts of Lamento (1989) by Jesús Villa-Rojo and Frocta (2000) by Alfonso Romero-Ramírez, and he conducted the Boulogne sax ensemble in a premiére performance of Apocén (2010) by young composer J. Manuel Busto Algarín.

He also discussed some of the important saxophonists in Spain, including Manuel Mijan and Pedro Iturralde, Andrés Gomis (Sigma Project Quartet), and Francisco Martínez (Sax-Ensemble quartet).

The Sigma Project is a new group which was founded in 2007, whereas Sax-Ensemble started 20 years earlier in 1987. Both groups consist of a core quartet, but often perform in an expanded form as a saxophone ensemble.  Some recordings of the Sigma Project are posted on youtube, and sax-ensemble has released several CDs, for anyone interested in hearing some of this music.  Manuel Mijan has just released a book that compiles all the pieces for saxophone by Spanish composers, inspired by the work of J-M Londeix. (Time to brush up on some Spanish…)

In addition to the discussion of repertoire, Padilla gave a masterclass which was very well-received by the class.  His teaching is based on clear, concrete instruction that integrates the technical and musical considerations.  He is also flexible, giving useful advice, no matter the student’s level of ability.  He mentioned to me that his conservatory is in the process of adding a master’s degree, and I would highly recommend his class to anyone who is interested in high-level saxophone study in Europe.  (Later on, I will post more ideas about this particular subject of doing a master’s degree in Europe.)

In terms of style and technique, the Spanish are closely-aligned with the French.  Spain has a huge saxophone scene, as a result of the countless wind bands found throughout the country, and the large number of saxophonists means a high overall level.  From my personal experience with Manuel Mijan, Padilla, and hearing recordings by Sigma project and Sax-Ensemble, I expect to see a lot of interesting work from Spain in the future.

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