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Rudy Wiedoeft: Masterful till the end - Valse Sonia

Today, a couple things come to mind that I'd like to share. Rudy Wiedoeft was for a period of perhaps 11-12 years one of the most popular musicians in the world. Having come from a Vaudeville background, I suppose he understood the need to seize the moment. During this period from 1917 to 1928 he made the most of the still-young recording industry and sold literally millions of records. During this period he made between 400 and 600 recordings. Wiedoeft made the saxophone popular and showed what could be accomplished by a master, playing both classical music as well as popular music. So widespread was his music, so highly valued were his recordings, that his records were even produced and sold in the dark, early days of the Soviet Union.


Regrettably, what became of Wiedoeft? His is a story of too much popularity, too many parties, and too much money. Gradually, he and his wife May, became alcoholics. At one point in 1928 while living in Hollywood apparently while May was preparing their dinner, an inebriated and violent argument erupted during which May stabbed Rudy with a kitchen knife. Rudy stumbled back out of the kitchen and collapsed on their sofa, while May continued to cook dinner. Luckily a house guest found the profusely bleeding Rudy on the sofa and called for help.


This injury signaled the end of his career. For the next two years Rudy walked with a cane and found it difficult to perform. Both this and his alcoholism contributed to his apparently sudden departure from the music scene. In the early 1930's while recovered from his wound, and still able to write and play Rudy tried to return to performing. However, by this point, the Great Depression had intervened, sales of saxophones declined substantially as had all musical instruments, record sales declined, but most importantly styles changed and so did popular music tastes. Rudy was perhaps both unwilling and unable to change with the times.


1932 brought Wiedoeft's final attempt to regain his musical popularity, in this year he published Valse Sonia. His swan song perhaps? Rudy was unable to record this piece, it has been said that he was rejected by the recording industry. In the sporadic live concerts he gave this piece was well received. Printed copies sold, and Rudy and May were able to live on the income provided by the publishers.


Today, Valse Sonia is relatively little known and yet it is very well received by audiences. Valse Sonia shows the mastery of Wiedoeft's technique, and also hints at a transition from the 1920's to the 1930's. It is a bittersweet farewell to a time of incredible popularity, gaiety, and easy money.


The Wiedoeft Collection offered through Lyrical Music Publications represents the closest-to-concert editions of Rudy Wiedoefts music. These are the most popular because even today, they are popular with modern audiences. As with the Demersseman Fantaisie, Wiedoeft's music is a part of the classic saxophone repertoire.


Only through Lyrical Music Publications can you find these pieces published for Bb Tenor or Soprano saxophone, for Eb Alto or Baritone saxophone or for C-Melody saxophone. No other website offers over 50 pieces for C-Melody saxophone with piano accompaniment.

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