New Ballets from Ricordi and the frustrations of building this database

I just finished inputting ballets from Ricordi.com. Ricordi includes the publishers Salabert, Durand, Forberg, and Eschig. More importantly, these publishers are responsible for publishing a substantial number of Romantic works. When it comes to finding works for the saxophone published in the 1800s and into the 20th century, this is one of the first places to start. But beware, there are significant roadblocks with this publisher.

One of the reasons I started compiling this database was to uncover all the Romantic era operas that have a saxophone solo. From 1844-1895, the task was fairly easy, as Adolphe Sax’s tenure at the Paris Opera house is well researched. But after Sax’s retirement from the Paris Opera in 1892, coupled with the death of the Paris Opera saxophonist Louis Mayeur in 1894, the trail of operas that use the saxophone disappears. In the database, there is a significant gap of works written for the saxophone from Vincent d’Indy’s Fervaal–debuted in 1897– to Reynaldo Hahn’s 1910 ballet, La Fête Chez Thérèse. With that 13 year gap, there are two possible outcomes.

  1. No works were written for the stage that used the saxophone during this period.
  2. The saxophone was used in stage works that are rarely performed.

I believe the answer to this question is found with the publishers Ricordi. I know after going through their works, I am missing operas and ballets that use the saxophone. How do I know this? Because several works on their website did not include the saxophone in the instrumentation even though I know the saxophone is in the score. What works you may ask?

Date: 1923

Ballet: La création du monde (op. 81a) by Darius Milhaud

Saxophone: Alto

Date: 1928

Ballet: Bolero by Maurice Ravel

Saxophone: Soprano and Tenor

Date: 1889-1895

Opera: Fervaal by Vincent d’Indy

Saxophone: Soprano, 2 Altos, Tenor

Adding these works was simple because I have seen the scores or have played the saxophone part. If the saxophone isn’t listed in these popular works, then what other works in their catalog contain the saxophone? Some of the answers can be found on IMSLP.org, since they do contain scores in the public domain but a lot of the time the full score isn’t available. You may think, just researched each individual opera. There are around 1500 operas listed in Ricordi. Even I don’t have that kind of time.

I’m uncovering so many new and unique operas, but I still can’t answer the question I set out to answer: what other Romantic operas use the saxophone? I’m doing my best to find that answer, but currently that 13 year gap from 1897-1910 is still a mystery. There’s still much to uncover.

Published by Mary Huntimer

Saxophonist, teacher, opera and silent movie enthusiast. All opinions are my own.

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