In Studio A with violinist Yesong Sophie Lee

Aug 20, 2019

Violinist Yesong Sophie Lee is just fifteen years old, and she's already a rising star.

She has won first prize in the Yehudi Menuhin International Junior Violin Competition, and she's been a soloist with orchestras including the Seattle Symphony, the London Philharmonia and the Detroit Symphony. She has also appeared on From the Top.

Sophie Lee visited IPR's Studio A, where she performed music of Fritz Kreisler. She also explained why her violin case is very, very pink and why German was her favorite subject last year, but chemistry will probably be her favorite this year.

Listen to the entire performance and interview below. An edited transcript of the interview also appears below.

Sophie Lee will perform Wednesday, August 21 at 8 p.m. at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor. Click here for more information and tickets. 

Violinist Yesong Sophie Lee (and her very pink violin case) in Studio A at Interlochen Public Radio
Credit Amanda Sewell

Brett Weisenborn engineered this edition of Studio A.

On her very pink violin case

It’s waterproof and heatproof, so it's very safe for my instrument. My mom actually bought it online. At first I didn't like it because it's too pink. It was just too much for me. But she said it would be good because I have a tendency to lose a lot of things. She said it would be very catching for the eyes, and I would never lose it.

On winning the Menuhin Junior Violin Competition and being compared to him

Menuhin is such amazing artist and violinist, and it's just such an honor to be compared to somebody that advanced. I love his recordings of the Beethoven concerto. I'm actually practicing that piece right now, so I've been going on YouTube to listen a lot now.

On the differences between playing a concerto and playing a solo recital

It's a little bit more physically demanding to do a solo recital. In a concerto, there's a lot of tutti, where the soloist can rest and have a bit of a break. But it's a totally different kind of atmosphere - I would say in a concerto it's very bombastic and loud. There's about a hundred other musicians [playing] with you, and it's just a great feeling to have. In a solo [recital], it's just me and the pianist. So it's more cozy. I love both. But this time I'm really excited to do a recital.

On the Recitative and Scherzo by Fritz Kreisler

This piece is very dramatic. The recitative is mostly on the G string. It's very dark and dramatic, and it's kind of like Kreisler trying to be serious - but he can't. The next part, the scherzo, is very contrasting. It's very light, playful - like a scherzo - and I just love it because it leaves a lot of room for imagination.

On her favorite school subject

It changes every year, I think, depending on the teacher. Last year, it was probably German.  I've always wanted to learn German because it's such an important language for classical music. I think this year it might be chemistry – or physics.

What she does when she’s not playing the violin

I have a little brother named Benjamin, so I like to hang out with him a lot. I also like to read and paint with my brother. I also like to go biking or running, too.

Benjamin actually just started to play clarinet in his middle school band. He wakes me up in the middle of night playing clarinet.