This July at the World Saxophone Congress just held in Zagreb, Croatia, a new arrangement for saxophone ensemble of Claude Debussy’s best-loved piano prelude La fille aux cheveux de lin by composer Denis Levaillant was unveiled at the international conference dedicated to towards the uniquely colorful woodwind instrument. The new arrangement was a delightful addition to Levaillant’s collection of tributes for the centennial of death of the iconic French composer this year.

The multi-faceted French composer-pianist has developed a particular affinity towards the saxophone. His love for the instrument stemmed from his great interest jazz (Levaillant has been an active jazz pianist for many years), as well as identifying Ornette Coleman as one of his personal musical heroes. Levaillant has since formed a collaborative partnership with French saxophone master Jean-Michel Goury, who has become one of biggest champions of his music. One of Levaillant’s most-performed saxophone pieces, Manhattan Rhapsody, was created for Goury and his frequent collaborator, pianist Yves Josset. Levaillant has written numerous works for the various saxophones, ranging from works for small groups, such as the aforementioned work, the Suite No.3 from Levaillant’s acclaimed ballet La petite danseuse de Degas (commissioned by the Paris Opera Ballet) for soprano saxophone and ensemble, and even a piece for twelve saxophones, Les Accords secrets du Capitaine Nemo, where the composer imagines Jules Verne’s famous character playing his fantastic organ aboard the Nautilus at the bottom of the sea. A fun fact: when Goury recorded his album of the then complete saxophone catalog of Levaillant (Manhattan Rhapsody, DLM 2174), he has recorded all the twelve parts by himself. That is quite a feat!

Discover more about Levaillant’s music for saxophones here.