Debut CD American Sonatas

I will be recording my debut CD “American Sonata” through MSR Classics in this upcoming season. I have chosen four original sonatas written for the saxophone: Paul Creston Sonata, Bernhard Heiden Sonata, Steve Cohen Sonata, and John Worley Sonata. I am excited to collaborate with pianist Esther Lim and we will begin recording sessions at the end of the summer 2019.

Rapsodie pour orchestra et saxophone

Claude Debussy (1862-1928) Adaptation by Wonki Lee

Mr. Lee’s version, as he states, incorporates the music from the complete orchestration more thoroughly, including transferring orchestral wind parts into the solo saxophone part itself. It represents a fascinating undertaking, certainly worthy of further hearings.
— New York Concert Review

My adaptation of Rapsodie aims to emulate its colorful orchestration in a form suitable for a recital setting. To achieve this effect, the full string sections played by the piano are enhanced to create much richer textures as well as reflecting solos that are passed though the orchestra. The saxophone part now contains lines from other wind instruments such as flute, clarinet, oboe, English horn, and trumpet. A greater range of the saxophone is utilized for enhanced melodic direction and dynamic effect.  As the saxophone has the richest spectrum of overtones of all the orchestral instruments, it is capable of flexibly transforming its tonal color to imply other instruments. The result is a saxophone and piano adaptation with a wide palette of tonal color and a truer sense of orchestral sonority.

In the summer of 1901, Debussy accepted a commission from Elise Hall who was president of the Boston Orchestral Club and an amateur saxophone enthusiast. By the summer of 1903, Debussy completed the orchestral sketch in a “short score” consisting of four staves that includes detailed indications of instrumentation, dynamics, expressions and tempi in red, blue, and black ink. Jean Roger-Ducasse undertook the task of completing the orchestration from the specific indications in the short score after Debussy's death.  In fact, what Roger-Ducasse actually did to complete Rapsodie was to “realize” the short score into an orchestral score, a practice common to Debussy.  (André Caplet orchestrated part of Debussy’s Le Martyre de saint Sébastien, and Children’s Corner. Roger-Ducasse orchestrated the unfinished orchestral manuscript of one of the Proses lyriques, “De grève,” and Musique pour “Le roi Lear.”

As soon as Debussy finished working on Rapsodiein the summer of 1903, he began work on the epic symphonic work La mer. The use of melodic materials and compositional techniques in La mer closely resemble those in the Rapsodie, which makes the work even more intriguing.  It is possible that following the success of La mer, Debussy might have been concerned about a potential critical failure in Rapsodie by presenting such an unusual work written for an unusual instrument. Therefore, he might have been reluctant to have Rapsodie performed during his lifetime. Rapsodie was premiered in its completed form on May 11, 1919, conducted by André Caplet and featuring saxophonist Yves Mayeur as soloist.