On the search for the 2020 ERSO Soloist of the Year #3

In an alternate universe, in this year’s Waterloo Festival ERSO would have been proudly presenting a concerto performed by the winner of the 2020 ERSO Soloist of the Year. Sadly that can’t happen, but we wanted you to meet our finalists.


What is your main occupation at the moment? I split my time between performing, composing and teaching. Alongside my role as Visiting Professor of Saxophone and Electronics at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, I perform as a soloist and in chamber ensembles including the Borealis and Kaleidoscope Saxophone Quartets. As a composer, I write both contemporary works and educational music, with many of my compositions being published by Saxtet Publications. What are your ambitions for the future?

Having already begun to establish myself as a performer and composer, I want to continue to develop a varied and wide-ranging career. Whilst I have much experience of performing solo and chamber recitals, and I have performed numerous concerti with Wind Orchestras, I have only had the chance to perform in front of Symphony Orchestras on a handful of occasions; this is something I would love to do more of in the future. I will also continue to focus on my work with live electronics and will be releasing my second album in late 2020.

What made you choose to play your instrument and how old were you when you started?

I didn't begin playing the saxophone until I was about 14. However, whilst at primary school I had started learning piano and later clarinet, on the suggestion of my older sister, who played the flute (and now plays professionally). When I moved up to secondary school, I admired the sax players in school big band; it was this that prompted me to take up the saxophone!

What made you choose the concerto that you will be playing?

Tableaux de Provence is a much-loved piece among saxophonists and is regularly performed in the composer's own arrangement for saxophone and piano. It is much less often heard with the original orchestral accompaniment, which I feel is a real shame because the orchestration is so colourful and really adds another dimension to the piece. Since I first heard it, I have thought that Tableaux de Provence is a beautifully written piece that sits particularly well on the instrument; I actually performed the piece in both the final recital of my Master's degree and the final of the RNCM Gold Medal Competition, but have never had the chance to perform it with orchestra!

What do you feel you would gain from the experience of winning this competition and playing your concerto with ERSO and Chris Stark?

I would revel in the opportunity to perform Tableaux de Provence with a top-quality orchestra, and to work with an established and innovative conductor. Performing with ERSO and Chris Stark would give me vital concerto experience, which I hope would lead to further concerto performances in the future.

Find out more about Alaistair at http://www.alastairpenman.co.uk

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