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Classical Saxophonist Joseph Lulloff and Pianist Yu-Lien The Convey ‘New Stories’ on Album Arriving March 17

March 15, 2023 | By Nat Silverman
Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

World-premiere recordings of works by Dorothy Chang,
David Biedenbender, Stacy Garrop, and Carter Pann

Artists and composers all have deep ties
to the US Midwest and state of Michigan

EAST LANSING, Mich.— Classical saxophonist Joseph Lulloff, a critically acclaimed concert artist and award-winning educator, and pianist Yu-Lien The, his frequent recital collaborator, offer world premiere recordings of works by four prominent, living American composers on New Stories, available March 17, 2023 (Blue Griffin Recording BGR 607).

The Michigan-based duo opens the album with the title work, Dorothy Chang’s New Stories for Alto Saxophone and Piano, followed by David Biedenbender’s Detroit Steel for solo alto saxophone, Stacy Garrop’s Wrath for tenor saxophone and piano, and Carter Pann’s Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano.

Three of the works were written expressly for Lulloff, whom the Cleveland Plain Dealer has called “amazing” and The New York Times hailed as a soloist of “considerable virtuosity.” Garrop’s piece was commissioned by Lulloff as part of a consortium of saxophonists.

“These new compositions invite listeners to savor the expansive colors, virtuosity, and eclecticism of modern saxophone performance and unleash the instrument’s artistic potential as a recital instrument in both classical and contemporary music contexts,” Lulloff says.

New Stories is Lulloff’s first album of classical art music comprised solely of works which he commissioned on his own or as part of a group.

“This music allows me to really explore, at a very deep level, lyricism, emotionalism, and pictorial description,” he says. “The works blend the jazz, classical, and contemporary elements I’ve been brought up with, in a way that reflects my soul and musical fabric.”

The composers, as well as the performers, all have strong ties to the American Midwest, especially the state of Michigan.

In the album notes, saxophonist Henning Schröder of Western Michigan University writes, “The American Midwest, through its historic role in musical instrument manufacturing and the strong establishment of music education and performance in academia, has been a remarkably fertile ground worldwide for the advancement and establishment of saxophone culture.” Schröder is baritone saxophonist of the Capitol Quartet, in which Lulloff holds the alto chair.

Eastern and Western influences

Born in Winfield, Illinois, Chang is a second-generation Chinese American who has lived in Asia and North America. She says writing New Stories (2013) for Lulloff was “the perfect opportunity for me to explore the combination of eastern and Western influences in my music, a composition puzzle I was grappling with at the time.” She worked closely with Lulloff and pianist The during the creative process. She says she felt “a tremendous sense of freedom,” given the saxophonist’s talent and musical open-mindedness. The piece, she says, was inspired by family stories dating to imperial China and embraces influences such as Chinese folks songs, 1980s pop ballads, marching band tunes, and Western classical music. Chang received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in composition from the University of Michigan and doctorate from Indiana University’s School of Music. Currently residing in Canada, the JUNO Award-nominated composer, whose works have been performed by top-rank orchestras and chamber ensembles in the US and Canada, is a professor of music at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Tribute to Detroit

With its propulsive, mechanized energy, Biedenbender’s unaccompanied Detroit Steel (2019) is, in his words, an homage to the “grit, strength, and resolve” of the Motor City’s residents. The piece, Biedenbender writes, is based on a work originally for solo flute, commissioned for a project celebrating the city’s artistic and economic resilience. A faculty colleague of Lulloff’s at Michigan State University’s College of Music, Biedenbender says the work salutes Detroit-born jazz saxophonist James Carter, a musician of “visceral energy and incredible artistry.” The Waukesha, Wisconsin, native has written for Alarm Will Sound, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and many other ensembles. An associate professor of composition, he holds degrees from the University of Michigan and Central Michigan University.

Fantasizing a “ferocious teenager”

Garrop is an award-winning freelance composer based in Chicago with a coast-to-coast demand for her signature brand of dramatic and lyrical storytelling. She sees Wrath (2019) as a follow-up to her “feisty” Tantrum for alto saxophone and piano, written two decades earlier. In the new piece, she re-imagines the subject as “a leaner, meaner, ferocious teenager who has moved on from an infant’s temper tantrum into all-out vengeful fury.” Her commissions have come from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Chicago Opera Theater, Chanticleer, The Crossing, other notable organizations. She holds degrees in music composition from the University of Michigan, University of Chicago, and Indiana University.

Romantic and modern idioms

The album’s largest work, Pann’s 25-minute Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (2016) was inspired, he says, by the saxophone music of William Albright and by Lulloff’s “particular blend of finesse and brutality accompanied by an unparalleled command of the instrument.” The work juxtaposes Romantic and modern idioms and Renaissance and Baroque forms. The first movement ends with what Pann calls “sax-waves” crashing over the piano. The second movement comprises a set of wistful, sometimes exalting “Three Songs Without Words” that harken back to mid-19th century salons. Pann describes the “Cuppa Joe” movement, a comedic nod to Lulloff’s love of coffee, as “a sonic onslaught, a barrage of notes” that only could have been written for Lulloff. Pann’s pervasive use of the “tears motif” from John Dowland’s lute song, Flow My Tears, finds a particularly poignant purpose in the final movement, which laments the loss of a cherished friend.

A native of La Grange, Illinois, Pann earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan, where his teachers included Albright, William Bolcom, and Bright Sheng, among others. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2016, Pann has received multiple ASCAP awards and Grammy nominations. He is a professor of composition at the University of Colorado in Boulder and chairs the department. Among his commissions are a string quartet for the Takács Quartet and a concerto for clarinetist Richard Stoltzman.

Album production and distribution

New Stories was produced and engineered by Sergei Kvitko of Blue Griffin Recording at Fairchild Theater, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, May 7–9, 2019, and June 3–5, 2021, with Lulloff as co-producer. The composers served as assistant producers for the recordings of their respective works.

Available digitally and on CD, the album is distributed globally by The Orchard and Albany Music Distributors.

Joseph Lulloff and Yu-Lien The

Joseph Lulloff has served as principal saxophonist with the Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras and Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras.

He toured with the Cleveland Orchestra and its music director, Franz Welser-Möst, as soloist in Ingolf Dahl’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone. Cleveland Plain Dealer critic Donald Rosenberg wrote, “Lulloff was amazing. He traversed the instrument with seamless agility, filled out phrases for all their expressive worth.” The Akron Beacon Journal proclaimed, “Joseph Lulloff played with all the finesse of a top-notch concert violinist.” Reviewing the Cleveland Orchestra on tour in Los Angeles and its performance of Maurice Ravel’s Boléro, Bruce Hodges of Seen and Heard International noted how Lulloff, “the orchestra’s sensational saxophone player . . . had both tenor and soprano saxophones draped around his neck, and was delirious ecstasy, expertly characterizing each passage as if they were being played by two completely different musicians.”

Saxophonist, bandleader, and composer Branford Marsalis has lauded Lulloff as "a marvelous musician" whose "knowledge of music, along with his ability to embrace music normally considered outside the sphere, makes him a joy to listen to."

In addition to his collaborations with the composers on New Stories, Lulloff has commissioned and premiered new works by Steven Bryant, Michael Colgrass, John Harbison, and Gunther Schuller, among many others.

A Yamaha and Vandoren Performing Artist, Lulloff has earned a Concert Artists Guild Award, the Pro Musicis International Soloists Award, the Michigan State University Distinguished Faculty Award, and the Withrow Award for Excellence in Teaching from the MSU College of Music, where he is professor of saxophone. The artist’s website is joelulloff.com.

Lulloff’s discography includes, among other albums, Four Shades of French, with pianist Deborah Moriarty and bassoonist Michael Kroth (Blue Griffin Recording BGR 493). The album, released in 2019, features Lulloff’s interpretations of late Romantic and early 20th century works originally written for violin, flute, or oboe. These include Camille Saint-Saens’ Sonata for Oboe and Piano, Op. 166; Claude Debussy’s Syrinx for flute; Francis Poulenc’s Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon, Op. 43; and Cesar Franck’s Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano FWV 8. Lulloff transcribed the parts to suit the timbre of the saxophone while keeping the original key signatures.

Born in the Netherlands and of Indonesian descent, pianist Yu-Lien The (pronounced YOOL’-yen TAY’) has appeared as soloist with orchestras in the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. Her credits include several concert tours with violinist Tomo Keller, director and leader of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. As a recitalist and chamber musician, she has performed at the Gilmore Keyboard Festival and venues including Carnegie and Detroit Symphony Halls. Her academic achievements include a Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance from Michigan State University. She is currently assistant professor of keyboard studies at Western Michigan University.

# # # #

New Stories
(Blue Griffin Recording BGR 607)

Joseph Lulloff, saxophone
Yu-Lien The, piano

Dorothy Chang
New Stories for Alto Saxophone and Piano
1. I. Floating Worlds (5:25)
2. II. A Tall Tale Told (4:46)
3. III. Reflection (4:49)
4. IV. Folksong (4:53)
David Biedenbender
5. Detroit Steel (6:39)
Stacy Garrop
6. I. Menace (6:22)
7. II. Shock (6:23)
8. III. Amok (3:22)
Carter Pann
Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano
9. I. This Black Cat (4:49)
    II. Three Songs Without Words
10.    1. Reverie (3:54)
11.    2. Soaring (3:14)
12.    3. Consolation (6:09)
13. III. Cuppa Joe (1:51)
14. IV.  Epilogue: Lacrimosa in memory of Joel Hastings (4:39)
Total time: 67:22




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