Jiyoon Lee: Mythes
Jiyoon Lee’s Champs Hill recital with Henry Kramer follows hard on the heels of her remarkable debut album (Orchid, A/18), on which she played the Nielsen and Korngold concertos with the Odense Symphony under Kristiina Poska. The main work on the new disc is Szymanowski’s Mythes and anyone already familiar with her performance of the Korngold will recognise the comparable qualities she brings to it.
There’s an admirable refusal to hurry, so that Szymanowski’s long, asymmetrical lines are given space to sing and breathe. Once again, you notice both her extraordinary sweetness of tone and the rapt, ecstatic way she takes each phrase, so that the music – this is Szymanowski at his most sensuous – really beguiles and seduces. Kramer is superb in this work, too, filling in the filigree textures of ‘La fontaine d’Aréthuse’ with exquisite grace and underscoring the emotional shifts of ‘Dryades et Pan’ with nicely ambivalent wit.
It is a most beautiful performance, though our insights into the range of Lee’s artistry ultimately come elsewhere. Stravinsky’s Suite italienne, reworking music from Pulcinella, is all cool poise apart from a shaft of nostalgic regret in the Serenata, though Kramer’s playing could do with a bit more hardness of edge in places. The real jolt, though, comes with Bartók’s First Rhapsody, where there’s a ferocity in Lee’s playing at the start of the lassù and an extravagance in the way she phrases the friss that we haven’t heard from her on disc before: Kramer’s muscularity and aggression are exciting here, too.
A similar darkness of mood and weight of attack characterise the opening of Ravel’s Tzigane, which is noble and suitably fiery, though Lee’s way with it isn’t as searching as some interpreters: place her beside, say, Ginette Neveu (6/49), and you’re struck by the latter’s ability to coax greater shades of meaning from the disparate phrases. With the piano entry, however, the performance really takes wing, with bravura playing from both of them, and tangible exhilaration at the conclusion. It’s another fine disc from Lee, one that consolidates her growing reputation and marks her out as an artist to watch in future.