Pianist Eric Lu, the Massachusetts-raised son of Chinese immigrants, has been winning competitions since he was 13, and he has won two big ones: the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw and, in 2018 at age 20, the Leeds International Piano Competition in Britain. His prize for the latter was this release of his competition performances on Warner Classics. The Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, was his finals entry, and he played the Chopin Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, in the semifinals. Some competition winners are good at pleasing judges, while others please audiences, and you get a bit of both here. There are some problems: the very slow funeral march of the Chopin tends to collapse under its own weight. And Lu is miked too closely; the coughing of someone in the front rows is captured clearly just at the critical moment where the tritone scales build to a climax in the slow movement of the Beethoven concerto. But the Beethoven is very strong: Lu has power and clean technique, and he interacts spontaneously with the Hallé Orchestra under Edward Gardner. This is something that eludes young pianists, and it gives his performance a charismatic X factor that seems, judging from the included applause at the end, to have made an impact on the restrained British crowds. The Chopin sonata, given a big, Beethovenian reading, and the Ballade in F minor, Op. 52, are a bit more conventionalm, but Lu is plainly a young pianist to watch.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35|
|Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58|