A case of misleading
packaging here, I fear. When I first
read, ' Yundi Li: Vienna Recital' I
mistakenly believed this to be a recording
of a public recital given in the great
hall. Li is certainly playing there,
but not a trace of audience is there
– this is a studio recording in DG's
best style, clean and clinical.
Much the same adjectives
could be applied to most of the recital.
The Scarlatti sonatas are the exception
to that description, being rather romanticised,
so much so that the first (Kk380) borders
on the Debussian at times. Despite Li's
clear affection for both sonatas it
is difficult to engage musically with
these performances. The second is one
of the more exuberant ones, and finds
Li evidently trying to be stylish.
The Mozart sonata is
clean if somewhat sterile. Not to say
that Li cannot be robust - he can -
but rather to suggest that Mozart's
genius does not really come through.
There is more than a suggestion of Li
almost preening himself as he plays,
admiring his own articulation. A miscalculated
first downbeat - read 'a thump' - of
the slow movement seals Li's lack of
involvement. The finale only acts as
confirmation, exhibiting little of the
love of life and sheer joy this music
Nice that DG has tracked
each movement of Carnaval. Li
is better here, if still not at one
with his material. The fact that the
score's difficulties and awkward corners
present no problem to Li should not
perhaps surprise us in this day and
age. The work opens with a nice sense
of showmanship – some character, at
last – and jaw-dropping finger-work.
Li proves he can project Schumann's
more interior side ('Pierrot'), while
his letters dance breathlessly. True,
'Pantalon et Colombine' is a rattley
Presto and Eusebius is almost at melting
point but not quite. At least Li is
almost without parallel in his Vivo
'Pause' (the run-in to the finale).
A pity though that the finale itself
lacks grandeur, as it is this that is
left to resonate in our minds.
Finally, some Liszt.
This shows off Li's technique - as if
we didn't know. Great double-octaves,
magnificent facility and a sense of
the pianist enjoying himself, at least
most of the time. Just a tad more character
would have made this truly memorable.
There is not enough
here to justify a full-price release.
Lavish booklet (fourteen pictures of
Li) + Musikverein + excellent recording
does not equal rewarding musical experience.