"Daniel Lee can apparently do just about anything musical. It's almost frightening sometimes because I'll ask him, 'Can you do this?' and he'll say, 'Oh, yeah, I can try that' and then he does something that Yo-Yo Ma would be proud of. The frustrating thing is that he doesn't seem to find anything on the cello difficult."—David Robertson, St. Louis Symphony Music Director
Korean-American cellist Daniel Lee continues to gain recognition as one of his generation's most significant artists. A native of Seattle, Lee started playing the cello at the age of six, studying with Richard Aaron. At age 11, he began his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and became the youngest protégé of the legendary Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. While at Curtis, Lee also studied with Orlando Cole, William Pleeth, and Peter Wiley. He graduated from the New England Conservatory with an Artist Diploma after studying with Paul Katz of the Cleveland Quartet. In 1994, at the age of 14, he signed an exclusive recording contract with Decca Records. He released two recordings: Schubert Arpegionne sonata and short pieces, and the Brahms sonatas. And in 2001, at the age of 21, he received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, just one of many awards and competitions that he's won during his career. Lee was just recently named one of the 2011 "40 under 40" by the St. Louis Business Journal.
He has won critical acclaim as a soloist with orchestras from around the world including the Baltimore Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and the St. Louis Symphony, where he has served as Principal Cello since 2005.
An active recitalist, Lee has performed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Jordan Hall in Boston, the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and recital tours in Japan and Korea. After a recital at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, the Seattle Times wrote, "Lee... 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.'"
Concerto appearances with the St. Louis Symphony have included Strauss's Don Quixote, and Esa-Pekka Salonen's Mania. In February 2009, following his performance of Elgar's Cello Concerto with the St. Louis Symphony, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch proclaimed that Lee "made the concerto his own in a beautiful and deeply touching display of interpretive and musical virtuosity." Most recently, Lee opened the 2009-10 St. Louis Symphony season performing the St. Louis premiere of Osvaldo Golijov's Azulfor Cello and Orchestra with David Robertson conducting.
In 2010, Lee performed his New York City recital debut at Merkin Hall in a program highlighted by the Sonata for Violoncello Solo, by Zolton Kodaly. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called this program, "Astounding... one that left the audience almost as simultaneously exhilarated and wrung out as the cellist himself at its end. Watch Danny Lee play, and you'd swear that he's become one with his instrument—and with the music."
During the 2010-11 season, Lee debuted as a soloist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra performing the U.S. premiere of James MacMillan's Kiss on Wood for Cello and Strings. At the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, he performed Nomos Alpha by Iannis Xenakis.
With the St. Louis Symphony in February, 2011, Lee performed Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, conducted by Bernard Labadie. That piece was included on a new album with the Czech Philharmonic that was recently released on Sony Classical in Korea.