Beethoven • Chopin

BBC Music Magazine - - Instrument­al Reviews -

Beethoven: Pi­ano Con­certo No. 4; Chopin: Sonata No. 2;

Bal­lade No. 4

Eric Lu (pi­ano); The Hallé/

Ed­ward Gard­ner

Warner Clas­sics 9029555215 62:31 mins The Leeds In­ter­na­tional Pi­ano Com­pe­ti­tion re­cently held its first con­test un­der a team of new di­rec­tors who have ex­ten­sively re­vised the pro­ceed­ings. The win­ner, hap­pily, is the Chi­nese-amer­i­can pi­anist Eric Lu, fresh from the Cur­tis In­sti­tute in Philadel­phia – and he is cer­tainly worth writ­ing home about.

This rapid re­lease from Warner Clas­sics presents three live per­for­mances from the com­pe­ti­tion and, lis­ten­ing to his Chopin play­ing in par­tic­u­lar, it is re­ally dif­fi­cult to be­lieve Lu is only 20. With a truly beau­ti­ful tone, an in­nate un­der­stand­ing of the mu­sic’s struc­ture, flow and emo­tional drives and a warm, gen­uine, un­af­fected way of shap­ing the phrases, it sounds as if he has a wise head on young shoul­ders; his play­ing com­bines that with the best of a youth­ful, fresh re­sponse to these peren­ni­ally-loved mas­ter­pieces.

★is ac­count of the Fourth

Bal­lade is mel­liflu­ous, sen­si­tive, pow­er­ful; and the heartache of deep iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the mu­sic is ever present in the ‘Fu­neral March’ Sonata, il­lu­mi­nat­ing its fever­ish dark­ness from within. The Beethoven Pi­ano Con­certo No. 4 is per­haps less en­tirely sat­is­fy­ing. Again, there’s re­fine­ment of tone, el­e­gance, lovely con­trol and, im­pres­sively, the ready trans­for­ma­tion of that Chopinesqu­e touch into a deep, dark, Beethove­nian one. The ★allé, though, sounds a bit scrappy and one sus­pects that lack of re­hearsal time pos­si­bly didn’t do the gen­eral en­sem­ble any favours. Sound qual­ity cap­tures some­thing of the com­pe­ti­tion fi­nal’s ex­cite­ment, though, and is both in­ti­mate and res­o­nant for the Chopin. Lu swept to a well-de­served vic­tory; let’s hope this will be his first record­ing of many. Jes­sica Duchen



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