Lee's Audience Discovers A Young New Star

------------------------------- Classical music review

Daniel Lee, cellist, with pianist ordon Back, in Seattle Symphony's Young Artists recital series; Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya, Tuesday evening. -------------------------------

It would be hard to find a more imposing beginning to a new concert series than Daniel Lee's cello recital Tuesday evening, inaugurating the Young Artists recital lineup at the Nordstrom Recital Hall.

Lee, an 18-year-old Seattle native who now is studying at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, is the kind of phenomenon who doesn't come around every day - or every decade, for that matter. Already enormously assured, technically brilliant and artistically mature, this is a cellist who is beyond the category of "promising." He's a young artist who unquestionably has a major career ahead, and last night's audience will be able to say they "heard him when."

For the recital, Lee chose several big standards of the cello repertoire, works that displayed the passion and energy of his playing and the warmth of his big, glorious tone: the only cello sonatas of both Debussy and Rachmaninoff, plus the landmark Kodaly Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello.

Piatagorsky's arrangement of Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance" (from "El Amor Brujo") rounded out the program, along with two encores - a Faure song, "Apres un reve," and Rimsky-Korsakov's ubiquitous "Flight of the Bumblebee," which sounded as if the bumblebee had

been ingesting powerful amphetamines.

Lee drew beautifully varied and subtle sounds from his instrument in the Debussy; he played the Falla with complete abandon, and gave the Rachmaninoff a heartfelt romanticism. The third movement of that sonata, all sublime simplicity, faded away with an expertly controlled diminuendo.

Control, in fact, was remarkable throughout the recital, in such details as the dazzling tremolos in the Kodaly's third movement. Lee has a youngster's zest and intensity and the polish of a mature player.

It was in the Kodaly sonata, a demanding work known as one of the major challenges of the cello repertoire, that Lee probably has the most room to grow. He has a big, powerful conception of the piece, and clearly understands the music, but he's still filling in the details; some notes landed where they weren't supposed to.

The Welsh-born pianist Gordon Back, an internationally prominent pianist/accompanist, played a major role in Lee's success. Elegant, polished and supportive, Back had his hands full in the Rachmaninoff (it's like playing a piano concerto, only you have to be careful not to drown out your cellist partner), but prevailed nonetheless. Lee is lucky to have a partner of this caliber.

The performance drew cheers, shouts and armloads of flowers from Lee's fans - and the kind of euphoria in the audience that accompanies the thrill of discovery. It's a great start to what could be one of the Symphony's most exciting series.