Another one of the frequently discussed, rarely performed and otherwise unknown works inspired by the artistry of Sigurd Rascher has now come to light in the 21st century. The Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, Op. 31 by Peter Jona Korn was composed shortly after the premier of Korn's 3rd Symphony in 1956. The world premiere took place on January 6, 1957 in Elkhart, Indiana with the Elkhart Symphony, conducted by Zigmont Gaska. The only other documented performances by Rascher were with the Oklahoma Symphony in 1957, the European premier with the North German Radio Orchestra on April 1, 1958 conducted by the composer, and finally a performance in Brisbane Australia with the Queensland Symphony on October 26, 1959.
This concerto presents some formidable challenges to the performer, the primary one being the frequent and extended use of the altissimo register. The performer, therefore, needs command of a well-developed, flexible and agile altissimo register extending to F4 (A4 in the original). Already by the summer of 1956 Korn suggested to Rascher the necessity of creating some ossia passages when "ordinary mortals" would attempt to perform the work in the "distant future". Perhaps patience was not in great supply with Peter Korn as the concerto suffered the same fate as our beloved Dahl Concerto. Twenty-six years after composing the work, Korn revised the concerto, removing extended musical sections from the first movement and reducing the technically demanding altissimo requirements. In fact the entire end of the exposition and climax of the movement have been deleted, possibly to guarantee more performances. If he had lived a little longer to hear the tremendous technical development of some saxophonists in regards to the altissimo register, perhaps this would not have happened! This published version is a piano reduction of the revised version of 1982 created by the composer. Even with the alterations, this is still a concerto of considerable substance, well worth studying and performing.