The French Saxophone School, Tone and Equipment: A Few Words with Fabrice Moretti of the Conservatory of Paris

by Vandoren

Jean-Marie Paul: What do you think of the current French saxophone school? 

Fabrice Moretti The French school is exploding today, both in quantity and in quality. There are many French saxophonists of a very high standard. We play differently, and this diversity is a tremendous asset. I do not want to be drawn into an argument over this issue, but as a jury member, I do not necessarily give preference to people who play the way I do. I try to find what the candidates are trying to express. In certain competitions, there is unfortunately a tendency to select musicians who come from a certain “mold.” Whether it is in terms of artistic performance or the choice of material, one must accept that people make different choices. Musicians, who are often a little egocentric, should not forget to listen to others, for the good of music. 

JMP: What is your desired attribute you look for as a saxophonist?

FM: To draw inspiration from the other woodwind instruments in an orchestra so that the saxophone blends in harmoniously, but without losing its specificity. If a saxophone is heard among other instruments, one should not have to say, “Oh, there is a saxophone!”

Even playing with a piano or a quartet, one should try to achieve the same level, through style, tone, and a concern for accuracy. For the general public, the sax is first and foremost a jazz instrument. I don’t play jazz - for every musician has his own speciality - but I love listening to it. My ambition is for the saxophone to be (re)discovered as a classical instrument.

All instruments have evolved. For example, oboes and trumpets have adapted their tone to changes in vibrato. Nowadays, an orchestra does not have the same tone as fifty years ago. But in terms of style and interpretation, I firmly believe in a certain tradition, without merely copying but adding a personal touch.

JMP: What do you seek when it comes to tone? 

FM: The tone depends on what I play. I adapt it according to the composers, the works, and even tastes (which change with time). What is so wonderful about music is its challenge, and being confronted by new situations. There are sounds that I like very much, others less, in both classical and jazz music in fact, because for me, all music is one.

JMP: You play Vandoren. What do you expect of the products? 

FM: I play the S27, A27, T20 and B35 mouthpieces for the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. I change mouthpieces every 4 or 5 years. It works well so I don’t ask myself questions. When I have a mouthpiece, I don’t try to test others. I simply have my mouthpiece checked by Jean- Paul Gauvin from time to time. I don’t believe in changing a mouthpiece according to the type of music, but using another type of reed instead.

There are certainties: I don’t change my saxophone or a very good mouthpiece, and the ligature (the traditional Vandoren one) should hold the mouthpiece tightly, that is the way I see it. And there are uncertainties: the player (physical and psychological condition), the reeds, the concert hall (temperature, acoustics). For the musician, it is a question of a healthy way of life, being well rested and in good shape before the concert. For the reeds, it also depends on the psyche of the musician. I have learned over time not to worry too much: one has to play, and it has just got to work. I have a selection of about twenty reeds. I look for a concert reed one hour before a performance, depending on the climatic and acoustic conditions of the concert hall. Sometimes, I make a preliminary selection the day before.

I have an anecdote to relate about reeds. During the first five years with the Jean Ledieu Quartet, I used the same reed for all concerts. However, one day I thought to myself that I should find something better to replace this, and I really had great difficulty in changing because I had become too accustomed to it. The moral of the story, I now go on tour with a variety of reeds. With the tenor, it was the same previously, when I played with the Ars Gallica Quartet. In fact, we won several chamber music competitions together.


About Fabrice Moretti

Fabrice Moretti started studying saxophone with Jean Ledieu at the Conservatoire National de Région of Nancy and continued his studies at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. He attended Daniel Deffayet's class and was unanimously nominated for the first prize in chamber music by a special vote of the jury. He then followed postgraduate studies by attending Christian Larde’s class.

Fabrice Moretti has won numerous national and international prizes: first prize of the national saxophone competition of Aix-les-Bains (France), second prize of the international saxophone competition of Faifax (USA), third prize of the international music chamber competition of Paris, first prize of the European saxophone competition of Gap (France).

Fabrice Moretti started an international career as a soloist and as a member of a chamber music groups in USA, Japan, Italy, Spain and Germany. He regularly plays with the Orchestre Philharmonique of France and with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, conducted by famous conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Seiji Ozawa, Riccardo Chailly, Marck Janowoski. Fabrice Moretti is teaching at the Conservatory of Paris.

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