Hee-Young Lim (cello), Chuhui Liang (piano)
rec. 2021, Beijing National Centre for the Performing Arts, China
Reviewed as download from press preview
Orchid Classics ORC100227 [65]

In the foreword to this issue Hee-Young Lim writes: “Being a cellist, I must admit that we have a somewhat limited range of repertoire compared to pianists or violinists, so by exploring these new transcriptions, I was happy to expand my own repertoire. It meant a great deal to me that I was able to record such beautiful music on my instrument, and I hope you will enjoy this selection of my favourite encores.” It is true that there are few minor pieces written originally for the cello; the obvious exception is Saint-Saëns’ immortal The Swan, which also gets the honour to open this recital – and certainly there is an almost aristocratic nobility in the melody, conjuring up the vision of the proud bird peacefully gliding forward on the water surface. The silken tone of her instrument and the smooth legato of her playing further elevates the experience. The rest of the pieces were originally conceived for piano or violin and in a couple cases for vocal works. 

Since the cello is my favourite instrument, so close to the human voice, it was a treat to listen to this disc, in which Ms Lim’s instrument sings so beguilingly. Most of the pieces are so utterly melodious and warm. Liszt’s well-known Liebestraum No. 3 was originally a song, and here it is phrased as a singer would do. “Ravel wrote his Vocalise-Étude en forme de Habanera in 1907 to meet a commission for a collection of wordless songs aimed at students learning about the intricacies of modern vocal music”, as Joanna Wyld points out in her commentaries in the booklet. Amy Beach’s Romance, her earliest published chamber work, could be a love song. Tchaikovsky’s two pieces are also singable and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Hymn to the Sun is an aria, even though most music lovers know it in Kreisler’s violin arrangement, and Godard’s Berceuse is another aria from an opera, long since forgotten. Anton Rubinstein’s Mélodie, a piano piece heard in all kinds of arrangements, is a work most people can hum. Incidentally the track list mixes up the composer with the Polish piano virtuoso Arthur Rubinstein, so I have corrected name and dates below. Ponce’s Estrellita is a song as well, as is Schubert’s Ave Maria. Brahms’ late piano works are nobly melodious and not unlike Vier ernste Gesänge. The Intermezzo in A major is certainly well-suited for the warmth of the cello tone. Assuredly, there is a predominance of slow, rather contemplative music here, but still there are contrasts enough to avoid the monotony that could lurk behind the corner – and a couple of livelier, spicier works also loosen up the  atmosphere, notably the bold Minstrels from Debussy’s first book of Préludes and Fritz Kreisler’s jazzy Syncopation from the 1920s. 

Hee-Young Lim and Chuhui Liang both have posts at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music and their collaboration is spotless. Lovers of cello music should invest in this album without delay. It works equally well for close listening and as agreeable background music late at night. 

Göran Forsling

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Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
1 The Swan (from Carnival of the Animals) R.125 2.51 
 Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
2  Liebestraum No.3 inA flat major, S.541 No.3 5.02
 Arranged for Cello & Piano by Hee-Young Lim
 Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
3 Préludes, Book 1, L.117: XII Minstrels 2.27 
 Arranged for Cello & Piano
 Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
4  Pièce en forme de Habanera 2.57
 Arranged for Cello and Piano by Paul Bazelaire
 Amy Beach (1867-1944)
5  Romance, Op.23 6.11
 Arranged for Cello and Piano by Hee-Young Lim
 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
6 Valse Sentimentale, Op.51, No.6 2.33
 Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
7 Hymn to the Sun (from ‘Le Coq d’Or’) 5.00
 Arranged by Fritz Kreisler
 Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
 8  Syncopation 2.12
 Maurice Ravel
 9 Pavane pour une infante défunte, M.19 5.17
 Arranged for Cello and Piano by Maurice Maréchal
 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
10  Mélodie (Souvenir d’un lieu cher) Op.42, TH.116 3.42
 Benjamin Godard (1849-1895)
11 Berceuse from Jocelyn, Op.100 5.44
 Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)
12  Melodie Op.3, No.1 3.07
 Arranged for Cello and Piano by David Popper
 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
13  Intermezzo in A major, Op.118, No.2: Andante teneramente  6.00
 Arranged for Cello and Piano by Hee-Young Lim
 Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
14  Estrellita 3.18
 Arranged by Jascha Heifetz
 Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
15  Rêve d’enfant, Op.14 4.50
 Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
16  Ave Maria   4.26