I have admired Yundi Li – now simply known as Yundi – for a long time, since I was given his lovely Chopin recital as a gift after a serious illness. That album was and remains a cornerstone of my Chopin recordings, and seemed to promise great things for the young pianist. Alas, he has taken the Lang Lang career path, in which a young Asian pianist becomes more about hype than music. This is not racism; I'm an Asian-American, and I detest this kind of thing regardless of variable. The pseudo-profundity of the cover, the pompous notes…all of this would seem to foreshadow a failure. So I say with absolute conviction that there is absolutely nothing special about this album at all.
Yundi is young, intelligent, and remains a fabulous pianist. He has all the notes. That does absolutely nothing to justify this release, which features some of the least involved, emotionally disengaged Beethoven playing ever to grace a supposedly major event. Daniel Harding does nothing to dissuade us from believing that the Berlin Philharmonic is doing anything less than snoozing along with the soloist; they play with a beautifully disinterested kind of sheen, wholly inappropriate for this, or perhaps any music. The solo playing is light, crisp, and dull. There is no weight, no emotion. This is one beautiful trill after another, while Harding and his forces provide a similar lack of edge. Surface polish? No doubt. Great Beethoven? No way.
The Schumann is beautiful, but sounds choppy and again very light. Schumann and Beethoven did have similarities; the booklet gets that right at least, but they did not share a musical language devoid of feeling and depth. As in the concerto, I don't feel like this performance does anything to justify this disc in the slightest. I hate to sound so negative, but if you are reading my work, I assume that you want to know if you should be spending your money on an album, and it's my job to say yes or no. The answer is no.
Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman