Finished in December 1993, A Tribute to Sax was written to commemorate the centenary of Adolphe Sax's death. It is a sort of musical homage offered by a saxophonist from Dinant to Dinant's greatest son.
From the beginning, the solo saxophone imposes its virtuosity, rousing the orchestra into a crushing aggressivity. Surprised by the display of so much energy, the soloist manages to relax the atmosphere a little. However, the orchestra doesn't listen and once again lets loose its anger. This is too much, so the sax replies in kind: in a few bars it shows all its facets: expressive, low, high, sarcasm and virtuosity. The orchestra in its turn, now somewhat appeased, shows its groupings. All this amuses the sax, who authoritatively stops this little game with a cadenza that closes the first part. In it are evoked all the vital elements heard up until now.
In the second part peace reigns and a new colour appears. Calm and serene, the soloist is superposed over the sound of the vibraphone before carrying all the orchestra along with him. Majestically, the orchestra affirms its plenitude. In a mature manner, it understands its duty to be reserved and effaces itself again. Over a rhythmic ostinato of muted brass, the soloist sings a line full of arabesques.
The introduction to the third part lets the orchestra express itself in a rhythmically complex sequence. As in the first movement, from the beginning the sax displays its surprising virtuosity. Intimidated, the orchestra reduces its accompaniment to a bare minimum. After a short cadenza, the orchestra lances its final attempt in an energetic march. The sax slyly dominates then abandons the orchestra before using all its charm before carring it into a redoubtable accelerando treated as a fugue.
As a preparation for the end, the soloist nevertheless chooses gentleness. The orchestra, for its part, insistently repeats the two chords that opened the work. A Tribute to Sax is dedicated to François Daneels, founder of the Belgian sax school, professor and predecessor of Alain Crepin at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.