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Jacques Ibert
The saxophone, on a more serious note
The saxophone, on a more serious note

Many of today's symphony orchestra instruments have been around for centuries. The violin, for instance, dates to the 1500s and as a result has an enormous repertoire spanning 450 years. The saxophone, by contrast, wasn't invented until the mid-19th century, so it missed the Baroque and Classical periods entirely and, because it was known at first only in France, much of the Romantic era as well. The saxophone is emphatically an orchestral instrument. Ravel's insinuating, repetitive "Bolero" is unthinkable without it. So is the achingly expressive portrayal of young love in Prokofiev's ballet "Romeo and Juliet." Puccini, who used two saxophones in the...