Performer Notes by Cecilia Lo-Chien Kao
Before beginning my doctorate in collaborative piano, I had little experience collaborating with saxophonists. Since then, I have explored many virtuosic, modern and avant-garde saxophone and piano duo works. Unlike the rich repertoire for strings and piano duo written by Russian composers, much of the standard saxophone repertoire is linked to commissions or works arising from the saxophone pedagogy lineages of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (Adolphe Sax and Marcel Mule) and American classical saxophone study (Larry Teal and Eugene Rousseau, plus many of their students). There is a disparity between compositions originating from the French and American schools and Russian advocates of the instrument. There are only two main pieces for saxophone written by Russian composers that collaborative pianists can encounter. One is the Concerto in E-flat major for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra (1934) by Alexander Glazunov and another is the Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1970) by Edison Denisov. Furthermore, since the saxophone was patented in 1846, a majority of its repertoire comes from the 20th century and does not include works written by earlier major composers. This lack of repertoire inspired my idea to create a recording of standard string and piano sonatas by Russian composers transcribed for saxophone and piano duo.
Two main factors were taken into consideration when selecting works for the project. One was that the selected Russian works differed with the modernity of most saxophone repertoire. The second was to create an album of transcriptions that covered a wide range of the saxophone instrument family.
These transcriptions create a novel situation where these traditional Russian string works can be experienced on the relatively modern saxophone. Several unique challenges arose for both the process of transcribing the pieces and collaborating in performance because of the instrumental differences between strings and saxophone. For example, passages rewritten to accommodate these differences had to take into consideration the saxophone’s range, tone quality and technique. This included changing the octave of certain passages to make them more playable and to effectively match the tonal characteristics of specific tessituras of the saxophone with the character of the music. Slap tonguing on the saxophone was also used in place of pizzicato and double stops were either performed as quick arpeggios, possibly revoiced, or reduced to a single note. Also, this required rethinking collaborative decisions, such as dynamics, tempo pacing, articulation, pedal use, and sound color choice.
These transcriptions also create a unique opportunity for both pianists and saxophonists. For saxophonists, these transcriptions allow them to encounter Romantic style works by major Russian composers, since most of the saxophone repertoire is modern and uses 20th-century harmonic language. For pianists, the transcriptions create options for innovative concert programming. Furthermore, playing these transcriptions is an opportunity for pianists to experience these standard string pieces with the completely different sonority and instrumental character of the saxophone, requiring them to rethink assumptions and be flexible in their approach to the music. This project represents my goal of a progressive fusion of traditional and modern influences in saxophone and piano duo repertoire.
Paul Zaborac is a versatile saxophonist, composer, and educator. Well versed in both classical and jazz saxophone, he has performed throughout the U.S. and internationally in Costa Rica, China, Hong Kong, and Australia. In addition to actively presenting solo and chamber music recitals, Paul has performed with the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra, the National Repertory Orchestra, and the Longmont Symphony Orchestra. He regularly leads jazz groups performing his original music and has released two albums: Actualize and Paul Zaborac Quartet: Live. He has appeared at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival and has had the opportunity to share the stage with notable jazz artists such as Rufus Reid, Tia Fuller, John Von Ohlen, Stan Sulzman, Greg Gisbert, Ernie Watts, and others.
Paul holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Saxophone Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Colorado Boulder, a Master of Music in Saxophone Performance from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Australia, and a Bachelor of Music Education from Simpson College. He has served as the saxophone faculty for the University of Colorado Boulder department of continuing education and as an interim professor of saxophone at the University of Denver Lamont School of Music.
Taiwanese pianist Cecilia Lo-Chien Kao enjoys performing in a wide variety of settings, ranging from chamber music, opera, orchestral ensembles, and choral music. She has collaborated with many distinguished artists including Lynn Harrell, Stefan Jackiw, Robert McDuffie, Bion Tsang, David Coucheron, and Jennifer Stumm.
Ms. Kao has served as a collaborative pianist for the prestigious Meadowmount School of Music, Columbus State University and Mercer University, where she collaborated with students of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings. She has appeared at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and can be heard with cellist Bion Tsang on his album The Blue Rock Sessions. Ms. Kao has received fellowships for both the Aspen School of Music and Music Academy of the West and was a guest artist for the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival in Florida.
She received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Colorado Boulder, her Master of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her Bachelor of Music degree from National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. Before moving to the United States to pursue her passion for collaborative piano, she received the first Master of Arts degree in collaborative piano from National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. Her teachers have included Anne Epperson, Margaret McDonald, Alexandra Nguyen, Elizabeth Pridgen and Shu-Cheng Lin. She hails from Taipei, Taiwan and is a proud descendant of the indigenous Amis Tribe.
Recorded January 9th - 11th, 2019 at Grusin Music Hall, University of Colorado in Boulder CO
Recording Engineer: Owen Zhou
Producer: Barbara Noyes
Assistant Producer: Michael Meier
Faculty Advisors: Margaret McDonald, Alexandra Nguyen, and Christina Jennings