SONGS MY FATHER TAUGHT ME
"This is artistry of the highest level. Highly recommended to all, not just those with an interest in violin music."
~Fanfare Magazine 2009 Want List
"The sound she draws from that Guadagnini is huge, sumptuous, and rich in every register, reminiscent of David Oistrakh at his peak, with the color of dark amber."
~American Record Guide
"This is truly a nice record: bravo!"
~Radio Classique, Canada
"Lee-Chin has the ability to free the voice of her instrument and send its soul out to intoxicate the listener."
~Classic FM, UK Radio Station of the Year
CD of the Week
~Symphony 92.4FM, Singapore
“There’s warmth, playfulness, melancholy and happiness all rolled into the pieces on this album, and Lee-Chin’s soaring melodies are given a great foil with accompaniment provided by Albert Tiu.”
"What distinguishes her is her lovely, warm and effusive tone...this peach of a disc...should be in every music-lover's collection."
~The Straits Times
ACCOLADES FOR LEE-CHIN
"Here was a lark that ascended with utmost grace and sang in the loveliest of voices."
~The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Singapore violinist, Lee-Chin Siow, slim and svelte in a scarlet sheath, teased out the glitter of Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy with aplomb."
~The London Times
“Siow has both fire and ice in her temperament, and she knows with unerring instinct when to apply them.”
~Bob Levin, American music critic
"Siow proved that she can take flight in a more fiery vein in her solo encore, Ysaye's Sonata No. 6, whose bravura aspects (multiple stops galore) she essayed with tasteful flair."
~The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"soloist Lee Chin is an astonishing violin virtuoso"
~The Post and Courier
~The Straits Times
NOTES FROM LEE-CHIN
The title of my debut recording is a play on Antonín Dvořák’s well-loved work Songs My Mother Taught Me. This album of lovely melodies and violin showpieces is a labor of love and is dedicated to my dear father, the Singaporean Chinese violinist Siow Hee-Shun, who is also my very first violin teacher, and still an ever-supportive mentor.
Music has always been in my family. My younger brothers and I grew up in a loving atmosphere filled with music, and it was only classical music. My father, who became a pioneer violinist in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, is a quiet and modest man. My father never marketed himself, but believed in an honest work ethic. He espoused Confucian values, and used to tell me, “Do not worry about the harvest. Just work hard, and the rest will take care of itself.” (“只顾耕耘, 不顾收获”)
When I was three months old, my father had already set his sights on me becoming a violinist. However he waited until I was seven before he gave me my first violin lesson. You could say I was a late bloomer! As a teacher, he paid attention to detail, especially in the styling of a phrase, as well as the big picture. “Listen to this piece of music,” he would say, “and hear how elegantly this violinist shapes its ending.” Nothing is ever glossed over whenever I played for him.
Father’s favourite violinists are Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler. One of his best loved Heifetz recordings was a transcription of Debussy's song Beau Soir, a piece so simple yet so poignant that it touches the heart. Violin music with a singing tone, seamless lines and soaring climaxes is what matters to him most.
I won my first competition soon after starting lessons, playing Massenet’s Meditation from Thaïs, one of the first concert pieces my father taught me. It has been with me ever since, and I performed it with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra under Lan Shui’s direction in Osaka in 2003. Also under my father’s tutelage, I learnt to play many repertoire works, including Pablo Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Henryk Wieniawski’s Polonaise in D major Op.4 – typically virtuoso fare – and Nicolo Paganini’s Cantabile and Heinz Provost’s Intermezzo – music of great lyricism. Intermezzo, from the soundtrack of 1939 movie of the same title starring Ingrid Bergman and Leslie Howard, is one of his particular favourites. I am very pleased to be able to include some of these in my recital disc.
When the Singapore Symphony Orchestra gave its first concerts in 1979, I was the youngest of three trainee musicians to play in the violins – alongside a rather proud father. There were many visiting violinists whom I had a chance to play for, among them Ruggiero Ricci, Salvatore Accardo and Aaron Rosand. It was Rosand who helped get me a place to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. My father knew I was in good hands when I eventually left for the States.
To the USA
Virtually all my studies and concert career were centered in my adopted homeland of the United States of America. From the New World came many new musical experiences and a widening of my repertoire. I have chosen three works from the American continent. African-American William Grant Still’s Gamin’ from the Suite for Violin and Piano is pure Americana, it’s jazzy, highly rhythmic and full of playful portamenti (slides) and blues notes. Amy Beach’s Romance from 1893 is a lovely lyrical work in the best Romantic tradition from the pre-eminent American woman composer of the age. I dedicate this performance to Lady Yuen Peng McNiece, who has been such a role model for me and whose foundation supported me throughout my studies in the United States.
Mexican composer Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita is his most famous song, one which he later incorporated into the slow movement of his Violin Concerto. The Polish-born violinist Henryk Szeryng was the concerto’s most famous interpreter. Having won the 1994 Henryk Szeryng International Violin Competition in Mexico City seems to be a fortuitous coincidence, but isn’t it just a simply ravishing melody?
One might have noticed a gypsy element in my recital programme. With the Sarasate are Vittorio Monti’s Hungarian-flavoured Csárdás, Kreisler’s earthy La Gitana, and Dvořák’s melancholic Songs My Mother Taught Me from his set of Gypsy Songs Op. 55. This highly expressive and almost carefree feel to the music might very well describe my life as a musician. Be it Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Oberlin or Charleston, I am usually far from home but always on the move!
Coming home to Singapore and loved ones is always a pleasure. What do I miss most about being away? Besides family, it’s the food… especially Hainanese chicken rice and char kuay teow (wok-fried noodles with lots of garnishing)! I decided to include one Chinese work in my recital, Fisherman’s Song at Sunset arranged by Chinese composer Li Guo-Quan. This performance is dedicated in memory of the late Mr Ong Teng Cheong, former president of Singapore, who was a music lover and a fine pianist. He once accompanied me on the piano in this very piece! I am grateful to him for making available the 1750 Guadagnini violin that you hear on this recording.
Finally, I have included the slow movement, titled Improvisation, from the youthful Violin Sonata in E-flat major (1887-88) by Richard Strauss. Its serene and sensuous melody, played with heartfelt warmth and tenderness, is something my father loves. My father sat in all my recording sessions at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, listening attentively and taking mental notes. Once I caught a glance of him, and found tears in his eyes. He has a Chinese saying “饮水思源” which resonates deeply within me, “Remember the source that quenches your thirst”.
It was a wonderful honor to return home for a sabbatical as a visiting artist at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore, where I recorded this album, and had the opportunity to work with young musicians from the Singapore National Youth Orchestra. I did not realise that I had the nurturing spirit in me until I started teaching. It was an unexpected talent which I now pursue with passion and commitment. I know a small part of my father’s legacy had rubbed on. It is great to be back!