Thursday, 5 July 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, July 2018)

Warner Classics 9029581294 / *****

George Li was the 19-year-old Chinese American pianist who caught the imagination of pianophiles when he was awarded the Silver Medal at the 2015 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. This debut recording, of a 2016 live performance in St Petersburg, offers a seemingly bog-standard programme, meant to showcase a broad range of styles. However, his playing is anything but boring or commonplace.

There is a crispness of articulation in Haydn’s short Sonata No.32 in B minor, bringing much lightness and wit. Passion comes to the fore in Chopin’s Sonata No.2 in B flat minor (also known as the Funeral March Sonata), living up to Schumann’s apt description of “four of Chopin’s wildest children bound together”. In Rachmaninov’s late Corelli Variations, he brings a noble and magisterial air.

To close, he combines contemplative Liszt (Consolation No.3) with coruscating Liszt (Hungarian Rhapsody No.2) completing this masterly 69-minute recital. The masterstroke was his inclusion of Rachmaninov’s own discursive and almost-jazzy cadenza in the latter, a daring display of individual spirit that is truly refreshing. 

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