REVIEW / CONCERT
POSTSCRIPT: LEE SHI MEI AND LIM YAN
Lee Shi Mei (violin), Lim Yan (piano)
Esplanade Recital Studio/ Last Saturday
Sonatas for piano and violin make up the bulk of the music that legions of violin students in Singapore spend hours working on. Countless more have studied them in the earlier days before they hung up their bows.
Despite this, Lee Shi Mei and Lim Yan remain among the few duos who regularly present recitals of this form and the Singapore music scene is richer for their intelligent programming and refreshing performances.
The Singaporean violinist and pianist have increasingly busy professional careers - Lee performs with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Lim lectures at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music - so to prepare and present such a substantial programme is no mean feat.
"Postscript" refers to the fact that all the sonatas in the programme were published posthumously, some after a gap of almost a century, and as recently as 1975.
The first half began with the "Grand Duo" Sonata by Franz Schubert, written when he was just 19.
In this, their third duo recital, their pairing was comfortable and almost seamless.
Lee's warm, sweet tone carried Schubert's charming lyricism well, while Lim lived up to his reputation as the consummate recital partner. They played with great sensitivity to the music and to each other, only just falling short of achieving the effortless flow that Schubert's music calls for.
On top of the wonderfully informative, easy-to-read programme notes provided, Lim delivered witty and erudite narratives after the Schubert and before each work in the second half.
He also revealed that Delius' Sonata In B Major, the composer's first violin sonata, was a personal favourite of Lee's, something that was clear from the moment they played the piece.
Long lines full of restrained passion typify Delius' music, characteristics that make it far more challenging than the notes alone might suggest.
In less sensitive hands, his music can sound repetitive, even tiresome, but Lee sustained the lines well, shaping the music beautifully.
It is shocking to think that Ravel's first Sonata For Violin And Piano was not published until 1975, even though its autograph was dated 1897.
This brilliant one-movement sonata, which opens with a haunting solo violin melody, was performed by an inspired duo who, by now, were well warmed-up on stage.
Lim seldom holds back on the keyboard, using the full dynamic range available on the Steinway in the cosy Esplanade Recital Studio. Remarkably, the duo always retained balance, although Lee's part could have done with a touch more drama and fire.
With all the genius of Mendelssohn's mature writing, it is amazing that it took over a century for his Sonata In F Major to be rediscovered by legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
Energetic, virtuosic and abounding with melodies, it is a work to be savoured and the Lee-Lim duo did it full justice.
Lim's boundless energy and Lee's steady musicality brought this highly creditable recital to a worthy end.