Esa Pietilä : Baltic Sea Concerto for Soprano & Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra

Esa Pietilä & Anders Paulsson

Swedish soprano saxophonist Anders Paulsson and Finnish tenor saxophonist Esa Pietilä are united in excellence by the fact the iconic Finnish composer Kalevi Aho has composed solo concertos for both of them respectively.

A vision of something new that has never been done before is now taking form: a double concerto for soprano saxophone and tenor saxophone by the composer Esa Pietilä. He has received a supporting grant for the compositional work itself, which means that the concerto does not need to have a commission from any orchestra to be premiered. The concerto presents the multifaceted possibilities of expression and virtuosity of Anders Paulsson on soprano saxophone and Esa Pietilä on tenor saxophone.

Listen to Esa Pietilä: Kalevi AHO tenor saxophone concerto

Listen to Anders Paulsson: Kalevi AHO soprano saxophone concerto

Among many variations of timbral combinations of the two saxophones, the concerto also presents extended playing techniques such as multiphonics and slap tongue. The dramaturgy and the spirit of the piece goes through many phases of moods, such as playful, virtuosic, meditative, sensitive, rough etc. as it drives its inspiration from the cultures of the 9 Baltic Sea countries and their musical heritage.

Anders Paulsson and Esa Pietilä are both very interested in conservation of Nature and especially the Seas. With this piece Paulsson and Pietilä want to spread the message of being concerned about the wellness and recovery of today’s Baltic sea. Each performance presents an opportunity to gather the general public, local stakeholders, decision makers and students for a lecture and seminar about the importance of the health of our shared Baltic Sea and a celebration for its potential recovery.

Esa Pietilä (*1964) is a well-known saxophonist operating with different musical genres in a creative way that recognizes no stylistic borders. He has appeared as soloist with such conductor luminaries as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Santtu-Matias Rouvali & Ville Matvejeff.
He has also worked e.g. with conductors Tibor Boganyi, Hossein Piskar, Jan Söderblom and composer Magnus Lindberg. The works performed have been Pietilä’s own pieces and e.g. tenor saxophone concertos by Eero Hämeenniemi and Kalevi Aho – works written especially for Pietilä. He has appeared as soloist with the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, the Kuopio Symphony, the Pori Sinfonietta, the Lappeenranta City Orchestra, the St. Michael Strings and others. Esa has a special mission to perform and compose new music for tenor saxophone – his own instrument. For his repertoire he also chooses exciting, already existing contemporary pieces to be edited for tenor saxophone, e.g. Magnus Lindberg ́s Ablauf which Esa recently performed at his profile concert at the Helsinki Music Centre (2018). Apart from being an active performer he has also given master courses on improvisation and tenor saxophone e.g. in the USA, Canada, Italy, Austria, Iceland, Sweden and Switzerland.

As a composer, Esa Pietilä has broadened the image of contemporary music with jazz. He has been commissioned to write works for the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, the Zagros Ensemble, the Tampere Raw, the St. Michael Strings, the UMO Jazz Orchestra and others, and has also written music for solo instruments, instrumental groups, dance projects and films.
Pietilä’s compositions include often a mixed combination of instruments and styles incorporating also a saxophone soloist. His aim has been to create new repertoire for tenor saxophone. Examples of these are his works Graffiti Play for chamber orchestra and contemporary jazz trio (2012, premiered by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Avanti! and the Esa Pietilä Trio), Pulses, Waves & Dialoques (2017) for tenor saxophone and string orchestra, the newly born double concerto Kairos Ludus for violin, tenor saxophone and chamber orchestra (to be premiered in 2023 with violinist Pekka Kuusisto, Pietilä & the Jyväskylä Symphony, Hunt! for saxophone and percussion quintet (premiered by the Osuma Ensemble and Pietilä in 2016). Combining improvisation and composed music has also always been an interest for Esa Pietilä.

The agreement with his publisher Fennica Gehrman covers a dozen or so works including also Asterion for 8 players (2014, commissioned by the Zagros Ensemble), Hyperhelium, for chamber sextet and tenor saxophone (2016, commissioned by the Tampere Raw), Brisk, for cello & marimba (2017 commissioned by cellist Eeva Rysä & percussionist Kazutata Morita), Uirapuru (2017) for male choir and tenor saxophone (2017, commissioned by the Akademiska Sångföreningen) as well as Pulses, Waves & Dialoques (2017) for tenor saxophone and string orchestra. Among the most recent compositions by Esa Pietilä are Seven in Amazonas for recorder quartet, The Wind Wants for woodwind quintet, Blazing Flames for tenor saxophone and the Kamus String Quartet, Glow for accordion, percussion and live-electronics, Fire! for solo saxophone, Fata Morgana for harpsichord solo and Three Strides of Light for piano solo. For more information, please visit

Since his Carnegie Hall debut in 1992, Anders Paulsson (*1961) is widely recognized as one of the finest soprano saxophonists in the world. His musicianship has inspired a succession of over 50 international composers to write solo concertos and chamber music for him.
He has performed concerts in 27 countries and in major music centres like Alice Tully Hall in New York, Berlin Philharmonie, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall in London, Palau de la Musica in Valencia, Moscow International Performing Arts Centre and Kitakyushu Performing Arts Centre i Japan.

In 2012 Anders Paulsson was awarded the Royal Gold Medal Litteris et Artibus for his prominent artistic achievements as soprano saxophonist. Anders has performed over a thousand of concerts as a soloist and released 24 CDs. His pioneering CD recording Swedish Concertos for Soprano Saxophone with music by Anders Eliasson, Rolf Martinsson & Sven- David Sandström has received praise in Gramophone as a real high.

He has performed as soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Stockholm, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gothemburg Symphony Orchestra and St. Petersburg Philharmonic and has collaborated with conductors such as John Storgårds, Okku Kamu, Eva Ollikainen, Johannes Gustavsson, Fabio Mastrangelo & Lan Shui.
After classical saxophone studies at the Royal College in Stockholm and with Jean-Marie Londeix in France, a Fulbright ITT International Fellowship enabled him to study with Joseph Allard and Bob Mintzer at Manhattan School of Music, New York City. 2013-2015 Anders Paulsson was Composer-in-Residence at the MIAGI Youth Symphony Orchestra in South Africa: and composed Celebration Suite for their 20th Jubilée of Democracy. At the Nobel festivities in 1993 Anders Paulsson performed for Nelson Mandela when he received the Nobel Peace Prize and for the Nobel Prize winners of Medicine in 2003.

Anders Paulsson seeks to use music to promote international understanding, peace and biosphere stewardship.
He is the co-founder of Coral Guardians, an organization that combines music and science to raise awareness about the world’s coral reefs and what is needed to safeguard them for future generations.
Anders ́ coral reef anthem Danjugan Sanctuary was performed at the 60th birthday Concert of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. For more information, please visit