Magazine article Gramophone

Chopin: Four Ballades

Magazine article Gramophone

Chopin: Four Ballades

Article excerpt

Chopin

Four Ballades. Berceuse, Op 57.

Four Mazurkas, Op 17

Yundi pf

DG (F) 481 2443DH (56' * DDD)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Yundi first came to public attention in 2000 when, as simple Yundi Li, he became the youngest-ever winner of the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. The assumption since then has been that ipso facto he is a great Chopin player--and, indeed, many of his subsequent recordings of the composer have much to commend them. One has to admire the exceptional technical command and accuracy, prerequisites of success in the competitive Chinese system of musical education, but too often in the four Ballades presented here that is all you get.

Revealingly, in the accompanying booklet Yundi is keen to 'dismiss any notion of sentimentality, stressing the need for a Chopin pianist to avoid being either mannered or emphatic'. This is a perfectly tenable view of the composer but one that I do not share. It is too narrow, too prescriptive. The greatest Chopin players have the (unteachable?) ability to combine what used to be termed masculine and feminine aspects of the composer, and Yundi's way with the Ballades suggests an asexual version of him, where intimacy is viewed objectively, passion is manufactured and kept under control. …

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