Chopin, Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1

COMPOSERS: Chopin,Liszt
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin , Liszt
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Yundi Li (piano); Philharmonia Orchestra/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6402
Yundi Li was still a teenager when he won the 2000 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. He’s waited until the young age of 24 to release this first concerto disc (following four solo discs for DG), bringing to two popular works a dazzling, seemingly effortless mastery that will be the envy of many pianists. The Liszt especially is scintillating. From the opening octaves Li seems to throw caution to the wind, which is really the only way to play this concerto, fusing electrifying spontaneity with meticulous control. His virtuosity is not only hugely impressive but also well proportioned. Not since Zimerman’s trail-blazing recording in Boston with Ozawa – amazingly now 20 years old – can I recall a more energizing performance.

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The Chopin is less clear-cut. Li’s emotionally cool approach is closer to the young Pollini than the more exuberant Argerich. For all his professionalism there is something rather anonymous about Li’s playing here, as if he’s ticking all the right boxes in a slightly calculating way. Li’s suave poetry and technical finish certainly bring satisfying rewards, but Argerich embraces a whole new dimension of colour and flair. While the orchestral sound is richly detailed the piano tone itself feels a touch superficial. Tim Parry