Classical saxophonist Wonki Lee, feeling equally at home in traditional and contemporary repertoire, distinguished himself as a winner of the Vandoren Emerging Artist Competition in United States as well as becoming the first Korean saxophonist selected to be one of the 18 semi-finalists in the Adolphe Sax International Competition in Belgium.
Mr. Lee’s musical explorations have encompassed fascinations with history of saxophone repertoire and interpreting original works with new insights and understandings. One of his projects was to create an adaptation of Debussy’s Rhapsodie for saxophone and orchestra aiming to construct a piano reduction of the orchestra score that preserves Debussy’s musical intentions. Recently, he is working on a project called “Trouble Birth and Secret Lives of Saxophone Works,” which investigates the historical background and genesis of significant original compositions written for saxophone that were either lost, unplayed, unknown, or underwent unacknowledged alternations by the composers. Many of the works to be researched will be presented and performed for either the first time, or have its first performance in over 80 years.
After making his Carnegie Weill Recital Hall debut premiering a new composition for soprano saxophone and piano, Mr. Lee became an advocate of contemporary music written by composers of his generation. Since then, he has contributed to the addition of three new saxophone concertos. He premiered piano-redacted version of saxophone concerto Sull’ala by Susan Botti, and saxophone concertos by Thiago Tiberio and Avner Finberg are written for him. In 2017, he premiered a saxophone quartet by an Italian composer Paolo Marchettini with his Convectus Saxophone Quartet. Mr. Lee will be premiering a new solo work by the composer in the fall.
As a soloist, Mr. Lee has given recitals and solo performances in United States, and Asia. He annually gives a recital with Yamaha Japan, which spotlights Yamaha custom saxophones and explores its potential through performing significant works for saxophone. He exclusively plays the Yamaha Custom 875 EX saxophones. In New York City, his performance of the Henri Tomasi Saxophone Concerto was well received that its live recording was broadcasted on WQXR radio. Mr. Lee has appeared as in the final concert of 25th season of New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble as a featuring artist performing Glazunov Saxophone Concerto.
As well as solo performances, Mr. Lee is an avid orchestral saxophonist. He has collaborated numerous conductors such as Leonard Slatkin, Robert Spano, and Philippe Entremont. Recently he has appeared with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra lead by Eiji Oue as they launched their 100th Anniversary World Tour at Alice Tully Hall, and the Tokyo Wind Symphony Orchestra. He has also appeared in orchestras such as New World Symphony Orchestra, and Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Lee received his training at Manhattan School of Music with Dr. Paul Cohen.