Richard Lambert Music

Cantilena for alto saxophone, oboe and strings (Op.11a)

A lyrical piece for alto sax, oboe and strings, borrowing freely from pop, jazz and rock styles

The original version of Cantilena (Op.11) for alto saxophone and piano dates from 1987. Its title derives from its prominent use of sustained, smooth-flowing melodic lines; the melody was recycled from an arietta from the opera Yellow Earth Ridge, since withdrawn by the composer.

This arrangement was made in 1993, and first performed in Royston Parish Church (Hertfordshire, UK) on 9 October as part of the Royston Arts Festival that year by Claire Lawrence (sax) and Carolyn Leaworthy (oboe) with invited strings.

Cantilena tries to capture a popular flavour, borrowing freely from pop, jazz and rock styles: primary and secondary chords are used in arpeggiated figures, as mainstream ballads might do; pedal notes are a feature, especially on the tonic note, and a 'bluesy' style emerges in the third main theme.

A pseudo-rock style is twice used on the climax section, which acts as a song-like chorus.

This arrangement of Cantilena is in the key of C major overall, but even the introduction uses 'wrong-note' harmony (notably flattened sevenths) to produce ambiguous tonality.

The piece demonstrates a range of tone colour for the saxophone and oboe across a wide melodic range, whilst the strings maintain a beautifully elegiac, sustained harmonic background.


  1. 9 October 1993 Royston Arts Festival (Herts, UK) Claire Lawrence (sax), Carolyn Leaworthy (oboe), invited strings, leader Janet Hicks, Richard Lambert (conductor)


This recording of Cantilena for alto saxophone, oboe and strings was produced using computer software called Sibelius: it is not a live recording.


You can view and purchase the score of Cantilena for alto saxophone, oboe and strings from Score Exchange.

If you wish to listen to the piece on that website, select the ‘MP3 file’ link instead of playing the embedded score for better audio quality.

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