The South Korea-born, Edinburgh-based musician Su-a Lee has a thirty-year career as vibrant as her distinctive, flame-red hair. Famous for her work with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as many global collaborations, the Juilliard-trained cellist’s official debut solo album carries a weight of expectation. Thankfully, it’s every bit as wonderful as befits such an elegant, uncompromising player.
The lush production makes light work of this album, which features both original and reworked traditional compositions. It’s a masterful showcase of how classical and folk can meld effortlessly together. It is so titled as Lee teams up with other musicians for each track, creating ‘dialogues’ – kind of sonic conversations. From the spritely opener ‘Baroque Suite’, featuring Donald Shaw on piano and harmonium, to the haunting ‘Oblivion’, with Netherlands bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhof, the spirit of reinvention is always present.
By far, the finest tracks are ‘Mill O’ Tifty’s Annie’, an intense spin on the traditional Scots ballad, featuring gorgeous, brooding storytelling from Karine Polwart and sinewy playing from Lee, and ‘Waltzaka For Su-a’, where Lee duets to potent effect with another cellist, Natalie Haas. The tempo changes and rich textures really keep the listener on their toes. Lee’s poignant closing track, her version of Burns’ ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, arranged by late friend and musician Kevin McCrae, proves just as moving when performed completely stripped back. The sheer scope and moods here reaffirm Lee as one of Scotland’s most versatile musicians.
Dialogues is out now on Bandcamp and comes out on all other platforms 20th January