BBC Music Magazine

Beethoven • Chopin


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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