Myung-Whun Chung

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Chopin,Debussy,Mozart,Schubert,Schumann and Tchaikovsky
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Myung-Whun Chung, Piano
WORKS: Works by Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Tchaikovsky
PERFORMER: Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 481 0765

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An unusual release: a tray of hors-d’oeuvres and favourite encores entirely lacking in virtuoso warhorses. Every piece here lies well within the grasp of the averagely accomplished amateur, though all require the subtlety and fine control of the fully fledged artist to convey their poetry and craft. Myung-Whun Chung is best known as a conductor, but we shouldn’t forget that he was once a finalist in the Leeds Competition. After decades of conducting the world’s greatest orchestras, it’s particularly touching that he should turn here to music of such prevailing intimacy.

Though most of the repertoire is well-known, Chung brings to much of it a decidedly original and refreshingly unconventional approach. Witness the almost Tchaikovskyan characterisation and lavishly flexible tempos in the Mozart variations. Beauty of sound and suppleness of inflection abound, strikingly so in the Chopin and Debussy, though more variety could have helped to offset the challenging repetitiousness of Für Elise and the Schumann Arabeske. The soundworld is deeply Romantic (some, indeed, may complain of over-pedalling), the conceptions are unfailingly poetic (no complaints there) but there’s often a sense of minute calculation that keeps simplicity at bay. Fittingly, the performances are as varied as the repertoire.

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Jeremy Siepmann