Chopin: Piano Works (Liu)
Bruce Liu (piano) (DG)
Andante spinato & Grande Polonaise; Mazurkas, Op. 33; Etudes, Op. 10 – excerpts; Nocturnes – selection etc
Bruce Liu (piano)
DG 486 1555 60:17 mins
Bruce Liu’s name had been on many people’s lips as the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition progressed in Warsaw last autumn, but if there was a single moment when his win looked likely it was illustrated by the ovation that greeted the Variations in B flat, Op. 2, at the close of his Third Stage recital. Chopin’s brilliant elaborations on Mozart’s ‘Là ci darem’ drew a performance that was poetic and virtuosic in equal measure — fundamental, one might say, to great Chopin playing. That work and this playful interpretation round off a release from Deutsche Grammophon showcasing the competition’s first prize winner, and should convince anyone who wasn’t there that even in this most distinguished of contests Liu deserved his place.
In performances captured across much of the three-week competition, the Canadian pianist has something consistently interesting and always fully idiomatic to say about Chopin’s music. The disc opens with an Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante of uncommon sensitivity. Liu brings fresh pathos to his set of Mazurkas, Op. 33, opening with playing of breathtaking beauty; the third piece, in D major, has rumbustious energy and melody of the fourth, in B minor, glistens as if in the dew. Featuring in quick succession two Etudes, a Nocturne and a Waltz, the programme might sound bitty were it not for his sophisticated playing. But the more substantial Scherzo No. 4 in E major gives Liu scope for architectural shape in what is by any measure a very satisfying Chopin recital.