Yundi: The Red Piano

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Xian Xing-hai; Zhang Zhao; Zhang Nan; Liu Chi; Wang Jian-Zhong; Zhu Jianer; Ren Guang; Nie Er
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Yundi: The Red Piano
WORKS: Yellow River Concerto; etc
PERFORMER: Yundi (piano); China NCPA Concert Hall Orchestra/Chen Zuohuang
CATALOGUE NO: 0886582

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Most young Chinese pianists seem to want to be seen as ambassadors for their country’s music, and none more than Yundi, who has now dropped his family name, Li. Known initially in China as ‘The Prince of the Piano’, he was signed up by Deutsche Grammophon and made a splash with a Chopin recording; then his coeval Lang Lang arrived and displaced him as DG’s Chinese star. EMI then signed Yundi and attempted to re-launch him in the West, but his new Chopin disc was a disappointment; his response was to go back home and revert to his original role as a national heart-throb, performing mostly in China. He has now set up a studio, supported by the Chinese government, to promote new works by Chinese composers, and has, since, returned to DG.

 This CD, designed to mark to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, is the first fruit of his studio enterprise. And it absolutely had to open with the iconic Yellow River Concerto, based on folk melodies, allegedly written in six days in a cave in 1939, and rearranged for different configurations over the following 30 years. Yundi’s performance is accomplished, as are his performances of the other works in this programme, but, though some have a bucolic charm, most are pervasively saccharine.

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Michael Church