Yundi Li

Chopin: Nocturnes

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Chinese pianist Yundi Li has not only switched his label from Deutsche Grammophon to EMI, but he has changed his name and become simply Yundi. He has not changed his favorite composer; three of his six DG discs featured Chopin's music and this two-disc set contains all the Polish Romantic's nocturnes, and he has not changed his modus operandi of super virtuosity coupled with poetic sensitivity. This should be an unbeatable combination in Chopin, and in many ways, it is. Yundi's impeccable technique, pearly tone, and sculpted phrasing suit the music down to the ground, and the sheer sensual beauty of his performances is astounding. Unfortunately, on EMI as earlier on DG, it is Yundi's poetic sensitivity that gets him into trouble. While his performances clearly trace the rise and fall of heartfelt emotions, one gets the unsettling sense that those emotions are Yundi's and not Chopin's. To a certain extent, all performers project their own emotions in performing Romantic music, but here, Chopin's music seems less like a medium through which the pianist expresses himself and more like a mirror in which the pianist admires himself. The beauty of Yundi's playing will be enough, or even more than enough for some listeners. EMI's digital sound is warmer and deeper than DG's, though not nearly as clean and crisp.

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