Written for saxophonist John-Edward Kelly, Through a Glass, Darkly borrows its title from I Corinthians 13:12:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Though the music does not have overt religious connotations, Kox does offer an interpretation of the biblical message. The idea of “seeing through a glass, darkly” suggests a skewed vision of reality, and the composer uses this distortive property to transform and reinvent much of the material in his opus. Two examples paint this method of composition quite clearly: the first is the opening statement from the alto saxophone, a sweeping rhapsodic cry. Though this initial solo material is altered throughout the fantasia, Kox retains familiar intervals, sweeping melodic gestures, and similar rhythmic activity to create a thematic connection that is hidden just beneath the surface. The second example of this distortive property is exemplified by the simple repeated-note gesture introduced by the saxophone after the piano’s first entrance. Listen carefully for how these repeated notes begin in the saxophone, are passed to the piano, and then become a motif in each of the subsequent episodes of the fantasia.

Like other works by Kox, Through a Glass, Darkly takes advantage of the full range of the saxophone, reaching into the highest tessitura of the instrument as the music reaches its climactic points. Kox’s daring and progressive score takes the saxophone to new heights, and in conjunction with his expressionistic compositional language, provides a powerful interpretation of Corinthians 13:12.

Recorded live at University of California, San Diego, 2018.

Shaoai Ashley Zhang, piano.

Aside from the orchestral compositions that brought him great notoriety (including a Pulitzer Prize), composer Steven Stucky (1949-2016) wrote a handful of chamber works, including three which feature saxophone. The earliest of these three works, Notturno for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1981), is described in the following note by the composer:

Notturno was written for two friends, the composer and saxophonist Mark Alan Taggart and the composer and pianist Brian Israel. The work involves two types of material. The first, a dramatic type featuring a repeated-note figure, opens the work and leads to a violent climax. The second, a more lyrical and rhapsodic type, features the saxophone and piano playing in different tempi and leads to a long, dream-like soliloquy for the saxophone. A coda section combines the repeated-note motif of the first section with the lyricism of the second.

Recorded live at University of California, San Diego, 2018.

Shaoai Ashley Zhang, piano.

Composer-pianist Eric Moe (b. 1954) provides the following note for his Demon Theory (2013):

Demon Theory was commissioned by the brilliant saxophonist Elliot Riley. The title is perhaps most pertinent with regards to Maxwell’s demon, an entity posited in a famous thought experiment about the second law of thermodynamics. Maxwell’s demon meddles with the relative energy states of two connected systems; its role seems not dissimilar from that of the composer of a duo. The phrase “demon theory” is also used in discussions of the relative merits of rival explanations for disease, e.g., germ theory (true), miasma theory (false), demon theory (false, although long believed by many, particularly as an explanation for mental disorders). It seemed an appropriate title for a piece of music characterized by sometimes violent surface changes of personality.

Recorded live at University of California, San Diego, 2018.

Shaoai Ashley Zhang, piano.

Cantata for Soprano, Alto Saxophone, and Piano (1938) by Wolfgang Jacobi (1894-1972) is based on two poems from the early part of the seventeenth-century: Amori by Pietro Michiele, and Pastorale by Francesco della Valle. Both poems can be found in a collection of Marinist poetry assembled in the early part of the twentieth-century by Benedetto Croce. Jacobi’s musical writing highlights the ornate style of the Marinist poets with his various approaches to text setting, including intricate rhythms, virtuosic technical demands, and dense harmonic content. Taking on the style suggested by the name “cantata,” the piece consists of various sections, opening with saxophone alone, which is then joined by piano for an extended amount of time. The voice is finally heard in a recitative style, and it is not until after this recitative that all three voices finally sound simultaneously. Throughout the work, each section captures different genres, regularly fusing baroque forms with twentieth-century tonality. This performance was recorded live at New England Conservatory's Brown Hall with Jacquelyn Stucker (soprano) and Chelsea Whitaker (piano).

Composed by Erwin Dressel (1909-1972), the Partita for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1965) was written and dedicated to virtuoso saxophonist Sigurd M. Rascher. Cast in five movements, each carries a title with neo-baroque connotations, yet the music itself imbues a romantic compositional language. Dressel uses the saxophone in a style that is very reminiscent of the music of Brahms and the late-romantics, an era where the saxophone was often not heard outside of Paris. If you listen closely, you can hear quotes from other composers throughout the work, particularly the music of Richard Strauss in this final movement. This performance was recorded live at New England Conservatory's Brown Hall with pianist Chelsea Whitaker.

Anton Webern's masterpiece is performed by Mr. Steinberg with violinist Yoojin Baek, clarinetist Geneviève Rivard, and pianist Joanne Kang, live at the Fuchs Chamber Competition Winners' Concert in 2014.