National Saxophone Day

There is no one better suited to leading us in the celebration of National Saxophone Day, which is today, 6 November:

In 2017, the French saxophonist Valentine Michaud was awarded the Prix Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes. She went on this year to win the prestigious Credit Suisse Young Artist Award. This remarkable 26-year-old musician makes an unforgettable impression with her stupendous virtuosity and her huge  palette of colors. What’s more, she is tirelessly curious and eager to try new things. Valentine Michaud has commissioned many composers to write new works for her instrument and experiments with unusual concert formats that aim to build bridges with other art forms. She even designs clothes and costumes for stage productions. Michaud demonstrated her versatility at “Life Is Live,” our most recent Summer Festival in Lucerne.

So we asked her some questions about the instrument being honored today:

The saxophone isn’t often associated with women musicians. Why have you chosen this instrument?

Actually, the saxophone is played by many women! In the classical saxophone world, it's really 50/50. But because the saxophone is mostly associated with jazz, which is still a very masculine industry, people don't expect a woman to play the saxophone (although there are also great women jazz sax players!). But in itself, as is true for any instrument, it is not a "male instrument" or a "female instrument.” I chose it when I was 7 years old because I was charmed by its round, warm, and bright sound, and also because... it was golden!

How do you respond to the statement: "The saxophone is a jazz instrument”?

It's true that jazz, after discovering the instrument (which was invented in Belgium!), gave the saxophone the opportunity to develop as a solo instrument and to shine in a way that it did not shine at that time in works of classical music. But initially, it was not conceived specifically as a jazz instrument, but more as an orchestral one. Its destiny was a bit different, but when composers realized the technical and expressive potential of this instrument (thanks, mainly, to jazz icons), they also wrote a lot of very beautiful and interesting classical music which totally deserves to be better known.

Describe in your own words what this wonderful, golden, gleaming instrument means to you.

To me, the saxophone, thanks to its sound and look, represents a warm, round, and generous idea. It can be very bright and shiny if you are in a sunny, optimistic mood, but it can also be soft, tender, and intimate. Its palette of expression is huge and I can identify myself with it very easily. That's why the saxophone has been a love story from the first note!

Interview conducted by Jacqueline Saner.

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