Notes and Editorial Reviews
Comparisons between Yundi Li and Lang Lang, both young, male, Asian, aggressively hyped, and on DG, seem inevitable, and if I had to choose between them I would take Yundi Li in a minute. His Liszt Sonata was world-class, and so is this new set of Chopin Scherzos. Of course, competition in this music is fierce, most particularly from Rubinstein, Pogorelich, and in the Second Scherzo, Argerich. Naturally, many listeners will have their own favorites as well to add to this short list, but Yundi Li surely has nothing to fear in this company. In the First Scherzo he offers something of Rubinstein's lightness of touch and rhythmic suppleness, qualities he carries over into the
remaining works. This permits him to integrate the huge dynamic contrasts that characterize the Second Scherzo into the music's overall flow without chopping the piece up into a series of disconnected gestures. The Third Scherzo is intensely dramatic at an aptly lively tempo, while Li's similarly kinetic response to the final piece leaves plenty of room for the grand statement (particularly toward the end) while resisting the urge to treat the music with excessive bombast.
You can find Li's take on the Fourth Impromptu on his first Chopin disc, which I found less successful overall than this one (or his Liszt)--nice try, DG! In general, there's a bit less imagination at work here. Granted, the music is admittedly smaller in scale. Li finds a very appealing mix of simplicity and dreaminess in the F-sharp minor Impromptu, but in the first and third pieces more dynamic contrast would have shaped the music's graceful contours with a bit more vividness. Still and all, this is a very distinguished recital by an artist with excellent instincts and plenty to say. Sonically, DG's recording places the piano a bit too close to the microphones, yielding a big, rich, full sound but also some brittleness in the piano's upper register. Playing with a dynamic range this big can take the added warmth of additional room ambience. But it's a very exciting sound, make no mistake, and as such an easy recommendation.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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