This work was originally composed for traditional wind octet and performed in that version. The work was
revised for saxophone octet in 2004.
At Martin's and Gillian's wedding reception, music was performed by a traditional wind octet (2 oboes, 2 clarinets,
2 bassoons and 2 French horns). Themes from Mozart's operas were frequently arranged as serenades for
wind octet, however there is not a contemporaneous arrangement for wind octet of themes from Zaide, Gillian's
favourite Mozart opera. I was commissioned to compose this serenade for this occassion, in an authentic classical style, the
only exception being that I composed for modern valve French horns, rather than the natural horns that would have been used
Unfortunately there are few wind octets performing today so I suggested to Kyle Horch, conductor of the Royal College of Music Saxophone Ensemble, that I recompose this serenade for saxophone octet. As I have been writing much music for classical saxophone, and there are many more saxophone ensembles, this seemed the logical choice.
In transcribing this work I have kept the contrast between instruments that was so much part of traditional wind octet writing; the soprano saxophones play the oboe parts; the altos the clarinet parts; tenors the French horn parts; and the bassoon parts are played by the baritones. The work is written in a classical style and works exceptionally well on saxophones, even though the saxophone was invented many years after Mozart abandoned this opera and left it unfinished. Hopefully these beautiful themes can now be heard more frequently as the original opera is rarely performed.
One might not expect Mozart to sit happily on saxophones, but quite honestly, Ian Stewart's Serenade on Themes from Zaïde was so well
written and played that any doubts were soon forgotten. There are five movements, the last being a reprise of the first, but using a fugue
from the baritones upwards to spice up the material. The Serenade is not a straightforward piece and it's a tribute to the musicianship
of the players and conductor that the performance was so sensitive in terms of balance; corners were nicely turned and articulations were
consistent and stylish.