Acclaimed Cellist Hee-Young Lim's Brings Unique and Intimate Voice to Second CD
Music is a shared cultural experience that transcends human understanding. Current events have taught us that even in times of isolation, music has the power to bring us together. For her latest CD on SONY Classical - 'Russian Cello Sonatas' - set for release on 5th June 2020, cellist Hee-Young Lim intentionally chooses works born out of tumultuous times in the lives of two Russian contemporaries: Sergei Rachmaninov and Sergei Prokofiev.
The young cellist has experienced many extraordinary firsts. Hee-Young Lim won her first competition at the age of 11 and has been racking up honors ever since. In addition to being the first Korean musician ever appointed as professor to the Beijing Central Conservatory, Hee-Young Lim was previously appointed as the Principal Solo Cellist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the first female Asian cellist to ever lead a section in a major European orchestra.
Lim's impressive 2018 debut recording on SONY Classical of French cello concertos, recorded at Abbey Road Studios with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrates her superb technique and musicality. The album drew considerable praise and led BBC Music Magazine to exclaim that "Lim outshines her contemporaries in the warmth of expressiveness of her tone, which is of truly rare beauty."
Hee-Young Lim remembers being profoundly influenced after hearing works by the great Russian masters as a child. It unleashed her curiosity and inspired her to immerse herself in their music. "Even then, I was moved by such composers as Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. Their overwhelming ability to so intimately display the very soul of humanity in their writing, to express, through music, thoughts and feelings in almost every measure and phase is very inspiring" says Ms Lim. "I find that the emotion that emanates from the Russian cello repertoire coming out of this era is more palpable than one might expect from say Beethoven or Bach."
Hee-Young Lim's command of this repertoire is guided by an uninhibited, authentic approach to making music. "I play from the heart" she says. "I love how each one of these pieces shows a sense of resilience and unapologetically commits to owning this". This vulnerability can be heard throughout Rachmaninov's Sonata in G minor Op. 19 and his Vocalise Op. 34, which bookends Hee-Young Lim's latest recording. Written in 1901, during a time when Rachmaninov was trying to regain his mental health and creativity after a nervous breakdown, his Sonata is a musical journey through his own emotional landscape fraught with many twists and turns that ends in hope. Ms Lim, who has been praised by the Washington Post as being "a deeply gifted musician" with "an exceptional sense of lyricism" and "near-flawless technique" brings this journey to life with the recording.
Rachmaninov's sublime Vocalise Op.34 was originally written for soprano or tenor. The absence of text translates seamlessly to the cello, an instrument thought by many to emulate the human voice. "The very nature of the cello's sound-deep, lyrical and flexible-to its innate way of mirroring breath and vibrato, allows me to sing through my instrument" says Lim.
Hee-Young Lim's ability to artistically capture these subtle nuances are abundantly evident and recently Gramophone remarked of her playing: "Lim brings an exceptionally refined, silkily lyrical sound to the whole....for a lovely instance of stylistic finesse dovetailing with a broad tonal spectrum...". Her moving interpretation of Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, which was written in 1912, is the last in his Op. 34. Although Vocalise has no text, the other thirteen songs in this collection were set to poems written by some of Russia's most beloved poets such as Pushkin, Polonsky and Korinfsky.
Prokofiev, on the other hand, used music as a tool to speak out against political oppression, exhibiting the strength and resolve of the Russian people. His Sonata in C major, Op. 119, which is featured as the centerpiece of Lim's new recording, was written in 1949, just a year before the composer was accused of formalism by the Zhdanov Decree and much of his music banned.
In describing Hee-Young Lim's technical mastery, BBC Music Magazine noted: "... Lim's virtuosity and sense of fun are a delight" and the technical requirements of Prokofiev's Sonata are no match for Hee-Young Lim's virtuosity. She and her collaborative partner, Nathalia Milstein, take this Sonata on in full force, with astonishing results.
Hee-Young Lim's deeply personal connection with this music offers a refreshing interpretation of these masterpieces. This new recording 'Russian Cello Sonatas' will undoubtedly cement her reputation as a leader in the next generation of cellists.