Hee-Young Lim: Playing her way into a magical place

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    Hee-Young Lim with cello lying down
    Lost in thought

    Playing the cello with uncommon brilliance was the reason why the French maestro and cellist, Phillipe Muller accepted her as a pupil when she was barely in her teens. It is also the reason why he has also performed [on the 9th of May, 2019, at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, in Xicheng District, China] cello duets on stage with Miss Lim. “We played an unusual program,” Muller said in an interview.” “There are not that many duos for two cellos. Usually a cello would play with a violin, a piano or a big ensemble,” Maestro Muller added. The programme included pieces by composers such as Jean-Baptiste Barrière, Jacques Offenbach, Reinhold Glière and David Popper, and was meant to reflect balance between technique and musicality.

    “We started with a Baroque piece written by Jean Barrière, which is very beautiful, then some duos by Glière – including Op.53, No.1 “Commodo” – which are rarely played. The suite we chose by Popper is very difficult, technically very demanding, but interesting,” Maestro Muller also added. “We didn’t pick the music just because it’s difficult. It’s also sympathetic, refreshing, I hope for the audience too,” the cellist noted, reaffirming the enormous faith and admiration he had for his young former-student. When I repeated what her former-teacher had said about her and the performance Miss Lim was characteristically demure: “You can never stop learning,” she said with a shy smile.

    But clearly the hard lines between master and student have begun to blur – in fact they have blurred enough to earn Miss Lim a recording contract with Sony Classical. She made her debut on the label with an extraordinary recording of French Cello Concertos (2018). That programme included works by Camille Saint-Saëns, Édourd Lalo, Darius Milhaud, Jacques Offenbach and Jules Massenet. In a review of the recording, Michael Cookson noted that Miss Lim played with a “joyously lyrical mood” and was swept away by “the profound weeping quality [she] develops.”

    You might think that such praise may accrue for something that is produced in the controlled environment of a studio. But several years before she even recorded this, the world of music was already taking notice. At the time of her debut performance in the Kennedy Center in the United States, as a matter of fact her recital was described in glowing terms by the critics present. The Washington Post: “[Miss] Lim is a deeply gifted musician with a full, singing tome, near-flawless technique and a natural lyricism that infused virtually every note she played.”

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