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KAI Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Orchestra by JUHA PISTO (Finland, 1966)

[#257] June 24, 2024

2021 | Solo Saxophone and Wind Ensemble | Grade 5 | 20’ – 25’ | Solo Work, concerto

Finnish composer, conductor, and educator Juha Pisto

Kai, Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Orchestra by Finnish composer, conductor, and educator Juha Pisto is our Composition of the Week.

Kai was written in 2021 and was commissioned and dedicated to Saxophone Artist Kai Ruskeepää. Kai Ruskeepää is a renowned artist in Finland, and has premiered other modern concertos for his instrument, including the works by Jukka Linkola, Kirmo Lintinen and Harry Vuori.

Kai is structured in three movements and has a total duration of about 24 minutes.


1.Takaumia – (Flashbacks) 8’20

2. Sanaton laulu – (Song without words) 7’30

3. Levottomat sormet – (Restless Fingers) 8’30


It is scored for the following instrumentation:


Solo Alto Saxophone

Flute 1-3 (3. + Piccolo)

Oboe 1-2 (2. + English Horn)

Clarinet 1-3 in Bb

Bass Clarinet in Bb

Alto Saxophone 1-2

Tenor Saxophone

Baritone Saxophone

Bassoon 1-2




Horn 1-4 in F

Trumpet 1-4 in Bb

Trombone 1-2

Bass Trombone

Euphonium 1-2


Tuba 1-2



Percussion I-III


Percussion I

- Suspended Cymbal

- Wood Block

- Whip

- Snare Drum

- Tambourine

- Bass Drum (Gr.Cassa)

- Temple Blocks

- Cymbals

- Triangle

- Rachet

- Gong (Small or Medium)

- Vibraslap

- Sand Blocks

Percussion II (Mallets)

- Xylophone

- Glockenspiel

- Vibraphone

- Marimba


Percussion III

- Bass Drum (Gr.Cassa)

- Drum Set:


”In December 2017, Kai Ruskeepää inquired about my willingness to compose a concerto for him. It was easy to say yes, as I know him to be a gifted saxophone player and uncompromising artist. As the composition progressed, we pondered technical matters related to the instrument and the soloist part, as well as other questions related to music, art, and life. Through these conversations, Kai Ruskeepää influenced the music which emerged from my pen.” “The Saxophone Concerto KAI is a traditional solo concerto, with three movements in the traditional format of fast-slow-fast. I tried to incorporate the feeling of moving through time into the fabric of the sound on an emotional level. Music itself is movement in time.” The piece begins with a cadenza-like introduction. The impulsive basic atmosphere of the first movement is built on a dialogue between strong, flashy memories and the present moment. The second movement is based on the ideas of timelessness and dualism. There are several songs without words, i.e. melodies or themes. They are presented both independently and as intertwined musical textures. Sometimes the saxophone soloist finds partners in the orchestra, with whom duets develop. The strongest partner is the English horn, with which the movement begins and also ends. The third movement also begins with a cadenza, like the first movement. Then the part squirms and aches restlessly. At the heart of the underlying emotional charge is, on the one hand, rhythmic repetition; on the other hand, surprising rhythms, and a feeling of being out of control. The role of percussion instruments is emphasized. Ultimately, the question is posed: is there an alternative to the competitive and comparative deployments that seemingly control life?”
Program Notes by Juha Pisto





Composer Juha Pisto about his background and current activities :“I studied tuba at the Oulu Conservatoire, receiving a low brass teacher’s degree. The following year I finished post-degree studies at the same school. While pursuing my tuba degree, I studied music theory and composing, as well as conducting. Wind music is strongly represented in my work. I have composed music for the Lieksa Brass Week and other Finnish wind music festivals and have been commissioned to write pieces for orchestras throughout Finland.”


“I have taught low brass, chamber music, and music theory, composing, and improvising in many music institutes in Finland, as well as orchestral instrumentation and conducting.”


“Nowadays my main job is composing, but I also do some teaching of composing and improvisation, and some conducting.”

“Stylistically, it is difficult to categorize my music language, but very often my works bend the boundaries between atonality and tonality.”




More on Juha Pisto (Finnish)


Other works for winds by Juha Pisto include:

  • Fête, Concerto for Euphonium and Wind Orchestra, 25’ (2023)

  • Wellamo, Concerto for Piano and Symphonic Wind Orchestra, 24’ (2023)

  • Gravitone, 12’ (2019)

  • Nachtmusik, 10’ (2014)

  • Suite of ABUK, 14’ (2012)









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