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Robert Maxham
Fanfare, April 2007

"Jascha Heifetz, like Fritz Kreisler, transcribed many works for violin and piano. Both violinists had developed formidable pianistic skills, although these seemed to call attention to themselves more in Heifetz's transcriptions than in Kreisler's. But Kreisler's transcriptions supplemented a large body of original (and well-loved) works, while Heifetz supposedly wrote only a few popular songs under the pseudonym Jim Hoyle (J. H.-get it?). Like Kreisler's transcriptions, Heifetz's embody a style of playing that can be studied, and perhaps even emulated, there. But emulation seems to have escaped many of those who have collected these works on recordings. Yet they ignore those personalities enshrined at their peril. Itzhak Perlman, Aaron Rosand, and Heifetz's student Sherry Kloss have issued recordings of Heifetz transcriptions. While they're perhaps successful on their own terms, none of them have preserved the Master's supercharged manner. And this manner, every bit as much as the carefully crafted violin parts and the artistically wrought piano accompaniments, helped put these pieces across in his performances.

Now it's l6-year-old Su Yeon Lee's turn to make a case for playing these works on the artist's own terms. Her tone, on the 1683 Stradivari loaned to her by Machold, soars in the upper registers (although the instrument sounds a bit hollow in the lower ones); and she gets there by means of portamentos that might at one time have been considered outmoded if not outlandish (Heifetz himself had been chary with them). Her playing, however, compared to Heifetz's, sounds even-tensioned and relaxed, despite indications of an emerging personality that should make her convincing in any repertoire. She creates a sweetly redolent impression in Gluck's Melodie, together with a haunting one in Debussy's Prelude. And she even conjures a fleeting suggestion of Heifetz in the Prelude, a piece not often performed. Michael Chertok serves as an able accompanist in pieces that demand a lot from the pianist for their success.

The engineers have recorded Lee and Chertok close-up, but with no distortion. It's a flattering tonal portrait of a young violinist forming her own personality. For that emerging individuality more than for any penetration into Heifetz's literature, the performances deserve a modest recommendation, especially to those who follow the careers of emerging artists".

American Record Guide, October 2006

In keeping with their policy of recording young, prize-winning violinists, Naxos has released this disc of Heifetz transcriptions played by the 17-year-old Korean Su Yeon Lee.

Heifetz was an inveterate transcriber, and his interests ranged widely enough so a disc of his transcriptions is not at all monotonous. The works on this disc range from Chopin's Nocturne, Op. 55:2, Stephen Foster's 'Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair', Gluck's 'Dance of the Blessed Spirits', Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Ponce's 'Estrellita', Prokofieff's 'Masks' from Romeo and Juliet, and Gershwin's 'Summertime' and 'A Woman Is a Sometime Thing'.

Unfortunately, these performances are not quite up to snuff. I've heard many of these pieces played by Heifetz himself, and I find it hard to get his sound out of my mind. Aaron Rosand and Itzhak Perlman have issued fine compilations of Heifetz arrangements, but the virtuosity of each is consummate enough and their personalities are strong enough to let me enjoy the program. Lee is wanting in those departments. Despite the fact that she used a Stradivarius for this recording, her tone is weak and pale. Her vibrato is also weak and often peters out. There is nothing special about her playing. She has enough talent to win a couple of competitions, but whether she has enough to make a career as a soloist is a question that may have to wait a few years for an answer. I'd say her trip to the recording studio was premature.

William Kreindler
MusicWeb International, August 2006

As a violinist Jascha Heifetz was one of the most famous of the twentieth century. In the course of his career he made over one hundred transcriptions of pieces of music not originally for violin. In this he showed a catholicity of interest - taking music from Europe, the US and Latin America, although he seemed to favor composers born in the middle or late nineteenth century. Technically the transcriptions are very well done, but many of them betray a tendency towards sentimentality or “schmaltz” that is not always in the original music. On the other hand, he could make a straightforward transcription, as evidenced by several of the items on this disc. It should be pointed out that many of Heifetz’s transcriptions usually did not turn up on printed programmes, but as encores for his recitals. This may partially explain the lack of total adherence to the spirit of the original scores, especially from a man who could play chamber music perfectly appropriately.

The violinist on this record is the sixteen year-old American Su Yeon Lee. As far as I can tell this is her recording debut. She first came to notice in America several years ago when she played with three other violinists on Christopher O’Reilly's radio show, "From the Top”. Ms. Lee has long been associated with the New England Conservatory of Music and has toured abroad with the Starling Chamber Orchestra. Based on this CD she seems to excel in pieces or parts of pieces that are ruminative. In fast or powerful passages, she seems unable to bring sufficient force to bear. Her technique is quite proficient, as it needs to be to follow in Heifetz’s footsteps.

The disc starts off with Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 55, No. 2. Ms Lee plays it in a rather languid fashion, which is appropriate to the piece, but does not sustain our interest all the way through. The Russian works of Krein and Rimsky-Korsakov demonstrate the violinist’s strong points. She gets the Russian tone of both pieces very well and her playing in the Rimsky is very accomplished. The two Prokofiev works show the other side of the coin: the March lacks drive and the excerpt from Romeo and Juliet is rather plodding. After the Rimsky comes one of Heifetz’s best known transcriptions - the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orpheus and Eurydice. Lee plays this arrangement straight, which is more than can be said for many violinists who attempt this encore. She also makes the most of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, one of Heifetz’s most sentimental efforts.

The slow/fast dichotomy continues with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Tango and the Dinicu, both of which are played too slow, even as encores. But all is forgiven with the Albeniz and Debussy works. These are performed with all the control of tempi and all the feeling required. Heifetz’s transcription of the Golliwog’s Cakewalk is not one of his best. Lee however plays it as if it had been written originally for violin and piano, with a fine mixture of virtuosity and comprehension. The old spiritual Deep Riveris performed with a great deal of feeling.

Ms. Lee is assisted by the well-known pianist Michael Chertok, who applies himself to a program that might not be too exciting for an accompanist. The recording quality is good, with only a little up-close reverberation now and then. Ms. Lee, as can be seen from the above, is a violinist of fine technique. When she can apply equal energy to all types of music, she will be a formidable performer.

Susan Chaityn Lebovits
The Boston Globe, April 2006

MAKING BEAUTIFUL MUSIC: For three years, violinist Suyeon Lee spent every other weekend waking at 5 a.m. to fly to Ohio to study violin at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Lee picked up a lot more than frequent flier miles: last week, the 17-year-old Newton resident was handed a copy of her new CD, ''Heifetz Transcriptions," which will hit stores such as Virgin Records, Barnes & Noble, and Borders this month. The Newton South junior was especially happy to learn that her music also will be available on iTunes.

The CD, which is on the Naxos label, was recorded at Robert J. Werner Recital Hall in Cincinnati when Lee was 15 years old. She used a Stradivarius to play 18 pieces transcribed by violinist Jascha Heifetz that had never before been recorded. Lee, who is accompanied by Michael Chertock on the piano, plays works by 16 composers, including Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy, and Gershwin.

''It was one of the best experiences of my life," said Lee, who spent nine hours a day perfecting each track. ''It really helped me focus and listen to my own playing."

Lee said a former teacher knew the president of Naxos and sent off an e-mail requesting he lend an ear. Two days later, Lee was the one listening -- to a contract offer.

''I don't think my school friends fully understand the pressures and things I go through because they don't play music themselves," she said. ''They'll finally see a part of my life that they haven't seen."

Lee's long-distance commute ended last summer when she played for Donald Weilerstein, who invited her to study with him at the New England Conservatory. Weilerstein was the founding first violinist of the renowned Cleveland Quartet.

Weilerstein said that what sets Lee apart is ''the sensitivity, refinement, and nuance" of her sound. ''The passion underneath can really communicate to people."

Lee, who practices for four hours a day, said that she has fashioned her own style of playing.

''I go with what I feel is right and how I feel the music should go," she said. ''Sometimes people will not agree with me, but I don't agree with them, either."

Lee was born in Korea and came to the United States when her father, Kyung Hwan Lee, became director of footwear development at Reebok.

She was 4 and her sister, Sujin, was 17 months old. Her mother, Jung Sook Min-Lee, cares for the family.

When Lee was 5, she asked her parents for violin lessons after watching the orchestra at the Korean Church of Boston in Brookline, which her family attends. She gave her first public performance the following year and has since traveled the world to take part in master classes and competitions.

In 2003, Lee placed first in the International Violin Competition of Jeunesses Musicales in Romania; and she recently placed first in the Boston Trio Competition.

Sujin, now 14, plays the cello.

''We tell them, 'If you like it, play, but if you do not, then you should stop,' " Lee's father said. ''We know nothing about music."

Jin Wook Park, Lee's first violin teacher and the conductor at the Korean Church, said he has never had to push his star student to practice. The 37-year-old Korean native moved into the Lees' home eight years ago to manage Suyeon's career, act as her practice teacher, and travel with her.

''It sounds weird, but it's normal for me," said Lee, who has known Park for 12 years. ''He's like a brother."

More than 63 classical CDs line the shelves of Lee's bedroom, along with stuffed animals and photos of friends. High on the wall is a commemorative porcelain plate with photos of the Kennedy family. She acknowledges having an infatuation with John F. Kennedy after doing a class project on him in the fifth grade.

She describes herself as being like any other teenage girl, enjoying novels like ''Gossip Girls," shopping, and watching ''The O.C." on television.

She hopes to attend a dual program at Harvard University and the New England Conservatory.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group