I would very much like to take a plane to interview the cellist Dong-Oo Lee, but he is really far from me and so I contact him by e-mail.
When did you start to play the cello?
I began my cello studies at age eight. But prior to that I studied piano for about one year.
Why the cello and not another musical instrument?
Both my late parents were professional musicians. My father was a tenor/chorale director and my mother was a soprano. As told by our mother to all of my surviving seven brothers and sisters after giving birth to each one of us she would looked at our hands. Her heart would then tell her what our fate in our life with music would be
Who was your first (and/or most important) cello teacher?
My very first cello teacher was a young Korean lady who had just graduated from the Paris Conservatory of Music. The Paris Conservatory Orchestra conductor had just been appointed the Music Director’s position of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra (in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.) so she was hired and immigrated to America. This young cellist was also a former high school classmate of my elder cousin in Seoul, Korea, so my cousin encouraged my mother that I should study cello with her. Every weekend I would go to her studio for a lesson and was curious about a photo of distinguished looking man and my teacher. So when our lesson was finished I asked her if the man in the photo was her father and she smiled and said ”No… he was my Seoul National University cello professor in Korea“. Fast forwarding 20 years later I would marry his daughter who is now a piano professor. As for the most important/major cello professors whom I’ve studied with were: Professor Joanna de Keyser at the University of New Mexico, Professor Gabor Rejto at the University of Southern California and Professor Laurence Lesser at the New England Conservatory of Music. But throughout my younger years took private lessons and participated in master class with such great cellists like: Frank Miller, Leonard Rose, Janos Starker, Zara Nelsova, Raya Garbousova, Claus Adam and Bernard Greenhouse
Who is your favourite composer?
I have been asked this question many times and always feel it is like someone asking me ”who is your most favorite child or grandchild“. Besides the obvious cello works of J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and R. Strauss. For some reason I have always been attracted to and found enjoyment in performing works by Rachmaninoff, Respighi, Vaughn Williams and Prokofiev
What is your favourite composition?
As for cello repertory it is a toss up between Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, Dvorak Cello Concerto and Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante
What is the concert you remember with most pleasure?
This is also difficult to say because I have had the honor to performed in great concert halls all around the world. But reminiscing with personal pleasure and heartfelt meaningfulness I must say that there are three concerts that come to my mind. First: was our family’s concert debut in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A. in 1972. Second: was the debut of my first Seoul Cello Recital with my wife that was 35 years ago (1984). Third: was presenting the Korean premier of the late American composer Russell Peck’s ”Voice of the Wood“ Concerto for Four Cellos and Orchestra in 2010 with our family of cellists (daughter Kyung-Mi Anna Lee, nephew Jacques Lee-Wood, sister-in-Law So-Young Jeon and myself). Our performance of this particular work is available on YouTube with the Pohang City Philharmonic Orchestra with Djong Victorin Yu, conductor.
Do you prefer to play alone or with others?
I always prefer to play and share the concert stage with others. Because I believe that the true meaning of music is creating a special moment between the music and the musicians and sharing it with the listening audience.
Do you prefer to play or to teach?
For me both personally and professionally I find these two ”practices“ (performing and teaching) inseparabe.
What are your musical projects for 2018?
Besides teaching at the Music College 10 months out of the year I also serve as the Music Director of the U.S.P. Chamber Orchestra. This years musical projects for the Chamber Orchestra will present six concerts here in Korea. The Chamber Orchestra was founded by the University of Ulsan, Music College and sponsored by the Hyundai Heavy Industrial Company. This past May I performed Haydn C Major Cello Concerto with the Music College String Orchestra. A June performance of Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos with the Luce String Ensemble. In the month of July a Beethoven ”Triple“ Concerto performance with the Ukrainian National Orchestra of Chernivtsi at the Busan Cultural Arts Center. The 2018 Ulsan Cello Institute Summer Seminar was held at the University of Ulsan. Recently a concert with the New England Conservatory of Music ”Korea Cello Ensemble“ at Seoul’s Se-Jong Cultural Art Center Chamber Hall. This coming September a 2nd. performance date of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Ulsan Joong-Gu Symphony Orchestra. Finally and most important will be in November when I will present my 37th consecutive year of Cello Anthology Repertory Concerts here at the University of Ulsan, College of Music Concert Hall. Throughout my entire professional career as a teacher and performer I have committed myself in performing the complete ”standard cello repertory“, cello music that has been forgotten or once lost in obscurity and modern music of today’s composers. Every single work performed on each of the past 36 Cello Anthology Repertory Concerts have never been reprogammed or repeated. This years 37th. Cello Anthology Repertory Concerts will be presenting: Marais Suite in D Major, Piatti Caprice’s No.5, No.6 & No.7, Brahms ”Hungarian Dances“ No.6, No.7, No.8, No.9 and No.11, and Kabalevsly’s Cello Concerto.
Thank you for your kindness, dear Professor, and we hope that our site will allow you to discover new compositions for cello enough to get to the 100th of his Cello Anthology Repertory Concerts …