Live in Beijing
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante in E flat, op.22 [13:54]
Piano Sonata no.2 in B flat minor, op.35 [23:09]
4 Mazurkas, op.33 [9:38]
2 Nocturnes op.9 [9:05]
Nocturne op.15 no.2 [3:10]
Polonaise A flat, op.53 [6:22]
Etude in C minor, op.10 no.12 [2:31]
Cai Yun Zhui Yue ('Colourful Clouds Chasing the Rainbow') [3:05]
As above, plus:-
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in D flat, op.27 no.2
Nocturne in C minor, op.48 no.1
Yundi (Li) (piano)
rec. National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, 15 May 2010. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 6316392 [70:58] (CD) + [75.00] (DVD)]
Numerous previous recordings by Yundi, formerly known as Yundi Li and more properly as Li Yundi, have been reviewed on this site since he first came to prominence a decade ago. These were usually greeted with enthusiasm - as here or, after a memorable opening salvo, here.
By his own admission, Yundi's speciality is Chopin: this is in fact his fourth all-Chopin disc, the first two released on his first label, Deutsche Grammophon. Both DG and EMI, who signed Yundi last year, have the means and the inclination to hype their artists to the sky, but the usual hagiography has been mercifully toned down for this release at least. That said, the front cover does not even mention Chopin, the biography in the booklet is restrained, and the notes are much more focused on the composer, at least as seen through Yundi's mind.
The CD opens with Chopin's two-for-one, theAndante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante which Yundi must already have performed more than any other Chopin specialist - indeed he describes it as "my signature piece". Yundi played it on his debut 'Chopin Recital' CD for DG in 2001. It is not one of Chopin's greatest works, but the Polonaise certainly lives up to its name, and Yundi plays here with far more confidence and feeling than back then.
Elsewhere, Yundi gives particularly eloquent, expressive accounts of the B minor Mazurka, the Nocturne in F sharp, and in the simple but profound Nocturne in E flat there is every sign of an artist coming into maturity. All the works in this programme have been recorded dozens if not hundreds of times before, and Yundi has an awful lot of competition, but he is beginning to develop a style of his own that is sufficiently powerful and different to be desirable without necessarily needing to be better.
A case in point is Yundi's rendition of the magnificentPiano Sonata in B flat minor, or Chopin's "four unruly children", in Schumann's famous words. The controlled sheer speed of the first and fourth movements seems to coax new sonorities out of Chopin's music. This is not a poetic account by any stretch, the almost thundering March funèbre least of all. It does however offer a strangely alluring muscle-vest alternative.
Yundi rounds off his recital with a barnstorming Etude in C minor, op.10 no.12 played at a 'Revolutionary' speed - the 2'31 on the track listing includes 25 seconds of applause!
Given that this is a live recording, the sound quality is excellent - the National Centre for the Performing Arts has a fine acoustic. Audiences in China cough and rustle and occasionally burst into applause before the music has finished much as elsewhere, but all within reason.
Very generously, the CD includes a DVD of the same concert, with an extra two Nocturnes thrown in. Surprisingly perhaps, the order of items on the DVD is different - presumably the true version. The order is: the 5 Nocturnes, followed by the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, followed by the four Mazurkas, the Sonata, the Polonaise and finally the two encores. The DVD production is pleasantly low-key, with good sound and no jaunty or arty camera angles, although the lighting on Yundi is harsh. There are no subtitles either, so anyone unfamiliar with the music must use the chapter headings to identify individual pieces.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Eloquent and expressive playing.