Raaf Hekkema: Since I started teaching at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, I have become more conscious of my self-chosen mission: to create a place for the saxophone within the classical music tradition. One way to do this is to forge a stronger bond between the players and the classical tradition, in the knowledge that the saxophone repertoire too is indebted to the great composers of the past. The most influential of them all is, without a doubt, Johann Sebastian Bach.
The path to this recording was long, windy and fascinating. It started with the awareness that the cello suites provide exceptional playing material for saxophonists. But I long felt that for playing Bach on the saxophone, only the light-sounding soprano saxophone would do—which was, I believed, incompatible with the instrument for which the suites were written. During preparations for my previous CD recording of Bach’s partitas for violin (Challenge Classics, CC 72648), I discovered that the alto sax—fitted with an old-style mouthpiece—could reproduce the refined articulation of the violin. Vintage mouthpieces represent the sound ideal of days gone by. Then came the idea to play the suites on six different saxophones, each of which holds a unique place in the history of the instrument. After that, much time went into working out a usable assignment of transpositions and an appropriate choice of instruments, the resulting sound character being the deciding factor.