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.
Paul Zaborac, saxophone (www.paulzaborac.com)
Cecilia Lo-Chien Kao, piano
Recorded January 9th - 11th, 2019 at Grusin Music Hall,
the 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