Opera’s influence on early “turcophone” literature

One of the first saxophone soloists is quite a unique character. Charles-Jean-Baptiste Soualle, aka Ali Ben Sou Alle, was a clarinet student at the Paris Conservatory who graduated in 1844. He took a job playing in orchestras in Paris before going to England with his ‘corno musa,’ aka the turcophone, which was really just an alto saxophone. He became one of the first saxophone virtuoso soloists, traveling the world playing his “exotic” instrument, dressed in oriental costumes and going by the name of Ali Ben Sou Alle.

Looking through Giacomo Meyerbeer’s online collection at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, I found a “turcophone” solo written for Ali Ben Sou Alle. What stands out is Meyerbeer recycled the saxophone solo he cut from his opera, Le Prophète, and used that as the material for “Caprice sur le Prophète.”

Here is the saxophone solo from his opera, originally cut before the premiere. Listening to the solo, it sounds like Meyerbeer changed the key for the “turcophone” solo.

This is a great example how opera and solos from operas influenced early saxophone literature. Lacking concertos and other solos, early saxophone soloists lifted many of their solos from popular operas. The only difference this time is this solo was actually written for the saxophone.

To learn more about Meyerbeer and Le Prophète, check out my post on the first saxophone solo in opera. Click here to see the full score to “Caprice sur le Prophète.” And don’t forget to check out the database to find more works by Meyerbeer.

Published by Mary Huntimer

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

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