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'Air' by Aaron Jay Kernis was an ideal vehicle to test the lyrical aspects of Min Lee's playing. Kernis, a student of John Adams and composer in residence of the St Paul's Chamber Orchestra of which Adams was director, has a distinctive voice, and his piece radiates a Coplandesque breadth and melodic line enriched with evocative tonal harmony. Min Lee and Gordon Back interacted here as a unanimous duo, conveying the eloquence of the soundscape, with its dramatic central section and climactic cadenza, leading back to the tranquility of the opening. The work was sandwiched between two showpieces based on French opera. Wieniawski's 'Faust' Fantasy is one of his less frequently performed works. A meeting of the creative minds of composer and arranger, it embroiders hits from Gounod's opera, that had been composed but a decade before, with fun and wit, with plenty of opportunity to show off Min Lee's vibrancy (in Marguerite's aria) and virtuoso ebullience, in the waltzes. We were regaled with some well drilled pyrotechnics, in the flutato themes, octave slides, scintillating passagework, resulting in riveting joie de vivre of the interaction. Similarly in Waxman's Carmen Fantasy (composed for Heifetz to perform in the 1934 Hollywood film Humoresque) there was plenty of character to the various highlights, including the habanera and seguidilla, with virtuoso ornaments, left hand pizzicati and harmonics all delivered effortlessly.

The packed and enthusiastic audience were regaled with two encores, again with a French accent: a Gluck miniature and the famous Dance des Lutins, which, despite just a few glossed pizzicati and spiccati, concluded the evening with youthful fizz and flourish. That Min Lee has received acclaim in her recent tour of Maylasia and the Far East, with Gordon Back, is far from surprising: the clarity of projection, and her natural ability to make the instrument sing and project large sounds were most impressive. Happily for any artist at this stage in her career there is certainly room for development, both in interpretative expression and tonal colouring, yet Min Lee clearly has a promising international career ahead. Her former teacher Erick Friedman, who came to London especially for this début, has much to be pleased about. British and European audiences too can also look forward to Min Lee's future appearances and recordings -- one of which, featuring Wieniawski's Concertos and 'Faust' Fantasy, with the RPO, is soon to be released.

Copyright © 27 October 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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