In his new Saxophone Concerto, Gabriel Prokofiev explores a side of classical music usually seen as forbidden by modern contemporary composers: melody. This aspect was incorporated at the request of the soloist, Branford Marsalis, allowing Prokofiev to revisit characteristics of the classical tradition not usually heard in contemporary music, giving the saxophone an open canvas. Prokofiev’s Bass Drum Concerto shows the versatility of the instrument, despite only being used in a very basic fashion in classical music as a whole. Prokofiev experiments with how the bass drum is struck, where it is struck, and what it is struck with throughout the piece, producing a variety of sounds, colors and textures.
If the Saxophone Concerto is something of a curate’s egg, the Bass Drum Concerto, premiered in 2012, is for me one of the best concertos written this century. The bass drum’s diverse and versatile sonic capabilities is imaginatively explored. However, this is no box-of-tricks concerto…The overall impression is of a tautly constructed and highly integrated work.