New Classical Tracks®

In latest release, cellist Hee-Young Lim dives into Russian sonatas

Hee-Young Lim and Nathalia Milstein perform Russian cello sonatas on an upcoming release.Anne Bied

New Classical Tracks: In latest release, cellist Hee-Young Lim dives into Russian sonatas


June 03, 2020
New Classical Tracks: Hee-Young Lim
by MPR

Hee-Young Lim/Nathalia Milstein — Russian Cello Sonatas (Sony)
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"I remember we started recording from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. with only a one-hour break, lunch break. So I cannot imagine in retrospect ... looking back, I can't imagine how I did it. But, you know, playing cello for nonstop. Nine hours. For two days. I mean, that was something."

Hee-Young Lim is no stranger to intense recording sessions. When she made her debut concerto recording last year, her bow broke in the middle of the session and she had to borrow one from an orchestra member to finish the recording.

This time around, she teamed up with pianist Nathalia Milstein for two Russian Cello Sonatas.

Let's dive into the pieces. The piece that opens ... is Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata in g minor...and this followed his real deep struggle, which was a personal one and an artistic one, where he sank into that deep depression after his first symphony premiere....which was such a disaster. Can you talk a little bit about how about how he finally found his way out of that?

"He went to see a therapist, Doctor Nikolai Dahl. And after successful treatments, he was able to compose his most popular work, the second concerto, piano concerto. And this cello sonata was composed during this time. Also his cello sonata conveys a message like I feel it reflects actually his life."

I was just thinking — wasn't Dr. Dahl, who helped him, also an amateur cellist?


And he dedicated it to a close colleague who was a cellist — can you talk about who that was?

"Yeah. It was his best friend. Brantkoff. Because of their friendship, I could feel that's his composition for this cello sonata, as if he knew the cello very well."

I want to ask you about the first two notes of the brief Lento in the introduction of this piece because they recur later in the movement ... and I wonder why are those two notes so significant?

"For me, it's like yourself for something, it's like asking a question. And you're looking for the answer...during the whole movement, during the first movement, you could say the whole movement. And finally, the answer is in the last movement for me. That's why it's it's the final movement starts so heroic whereas the first movement is all about questioning and doubts. And I think these two notes are are the key for the atmosphere of the first movement."

Let's talk about Prokofiev's Sonata in C. This work is something of a fairy tale; there's a story in there ... I'm wondering what story comes to mind as you're playing it?

"I often imagine...his opera like Cinderella. Also landscape of Russia, which is huge, enormous. Also, you know, there are some humorous and sarcastic moments that we can find in many places as if he was trying to express his oppression."

Cellist Hee-Young Lim, with pianist Nathalia Milstein. A new collection of Russian Cello Sonatas to be released on June 5.

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Hee-Young Lim/Nathalia Milstein — Russian Cello Sonatas (Sony); to be released on June 5.