Top critical review
A valiant attempt at virtuosic repertoire that yielded only partial fruit.
on 4 December 2007
These two concerti, Chopin Ho. 1 and Liszt No. 1, have both been widely popular and much recorded by maestros of the pianoforte.
Yundi Li embarked on a challenging task when at barely 24 years of age, he made a recording of both popular classics that demands virtuoso playing.
I think he passed the test - though not with top marks. Basically, the Liszt No. 1 Concerto failed to sustain energy to the very end of the 4th movement - it started to fumble at the latter part of the 3rd movement. In trying to maintain the momentum, Li struggled with the tempi, and the orchestra failed to collaborate. The result is a beautifully opened 1st movement, but a rather sadly hurried finale. Certainly it would be harsh to compare young Li with Martha Argerich. I would, instead, compare him with compatriot Liu Shi Kun's version with Seiji Osawa's Boston Symphony Orchestra on Philips. Li could not surpass the fingering technique of Liu, who played a piece that blew his listeners away with fiery dynamics and head-spinning tempi, especially the last movement.
The Chopin No. 1, again, I would not compare Li with Argerich. This time, I would like to pick out veteran Chinese pianist Fou T'song's version with Tang Muhai. Fou's version was full of deep affectation and a keen sense of loss. Its ability to move listeners were immense and astounding. Do not expect such from young LI, though. Li had much technique to burn in this piece, but it was a youthful reading, though poetic in places, lacked the depth of emotions of Chopin.
I hate to entertain people's questions like who came first and who came third in the Chopin Competition.
Such things never mattered much to musicians, and never mattered at all to listeners.