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Chopin • Brahms • R Schumann

Eric Lu (piano) (Warner Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Brahms • Chopin • R Schumann
Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Brahms: Intermezzo in E flat major, Op. 117 No. 1; R Schumann: Theme and Variations in E flat WoO 24 ‘Ghost Variations’
Eric Lu (piano)
Warner Classics 9029529234   63.28 mins

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Eric Lu is a young pianist blessed with what sounds like an ‘old soul’. In his first studio recording since winning the 2018 Leeds International Piano Competition, he matches the Chopin 24 Preludes with Schumann’s heartbreaking final piano work, the Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations), preceded by the Brahms E flat Intermezzo from Op. 117, which the composer termed ‘lullabies of my sorrows.’

The programme is both effective and unsettling. Chopin’s Preludes, some written in Majorca under nightmarish conditions while he was seriously ill, can be as death-haunted as Schumann’s last work, written around the time of his suicide attempt. Lu’s playing is in a rare class – one that has a vacancy since Radu Lupu’s retirement. This type of sensitivity and emotional intuition does not grow on trees, especially not when served by such a technique, with richly singing tone and delicate fleetness of finger (try the G major Prelude, where the glitter of the left hand perfectly contrasts gorgeous long lines in the treble). Moreover, there’s high finesse in his control of nuance and ability to create subtle, intense atmospheres (the ‘Raindrop’ Prelude is truly special). The radical contrasts between preludes emerge strongly, but with logic, as if one idea grows naturally out of the last; and nothing is hurried, the pianist taking time to allow the sound and its shaping to make its impact. The Brahms is hushed and almost sinister; and the mysterious voices within the fragile Ghost Variations are replete with compassion. Wonderful. Jessica Duchen

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