Having taken joint first prize at the 2016 Carl Nielsen Violin Competition, it is appropriate that Jiyoon Lee (from South Korea) should include music by the eponymous Dane for her debut recording. She is very impressive in Nielsen’s adorable Violin Concerto and enjoys a positive collaboration with Kristiina Poska who ensures that the opening is suitably arresting, a tension-filled space for Lee to impress in terms of technique and timbre, and, most of all in musicianship, attacking the roulade of notes (Nielsen writing adroitly for his own instrument) before yielding to some magical if yearning expression. With the arrival of the section marked Allegro cavalleresco (not given a separate track, unfortunately), which cues a gloriously expansive tune and further swashbuckling challenges for the soloist, the musicians all give of their best, finding a fantasy-narrative aspect, Lee in dramatic charge of the cadenza, and the coda (with imposing horn trills and timpani strokes) is very exciting. In the second movement, similarly structured – slow (preparatory)-fast (main) – Lee bathes the Poco adagio in bittersweet remembrances and (tracked this time) brings freshness to the quirky dance-steps of the Allegretto scherzando, during which the Odense woodwinds are elegantly pointed.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto is getting out quite a lot these days; rightly so – romantic, soulful and (in the Finale) exhilarating, fabulously orchestrated – it hit the ground running with Heifetz’s now-vintage if timeless recording. Lee and Poska conspire a distinguished account, the very opening seductive, Lee tugging at the heartstrings with emotional address, from inside the music, and rich tone to feed the senses with filmic images (Korngold carried his style into his Hollywood career, such as Adventures of Robin Hood, and Sea Hawk, both starring Errol Flynn) and nurture those deep feelings that words can’t get near.
Make no mistake, Jiyoon Lee is a major talent (and Kristiina Poska shouldn’t be left out of this equation), a sensitive and searching artist, with bags of confidence; if I were a conductor I’d be straight on the phone to her management to arrange a concert date. The recorded sound is very good, bold and vivid, well-balanced between violinist and orchestra – the latter properly equal – however, turn the volume down a little to reduce fortissimo fierceness and the reproduction becomes excellent.