The young Polish-Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, almost a veteran at age 23 when this Deutsche Grammophon release appeared in 2019, deserves credit first off for knowing what he can't do at this stage, and what he can. He made his reputation with some Chopin performances that were beautifully controlled technically, but to make an impact with distinctive Chopin in such a crowded marketplace is something that will come in a few years. For Mendelssohn, on the other hand, he's ready now, and good performances of the Mendelssohn piano concertos are not so easy to come by. There have been several recent performances on historical instruments, but Lisiecki carves out a different niche: he performs with the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, from New York, but uses a modern piano. The results in the Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25, are splendid. Sample the first movement and experience how the whole thing unfolds as if in a single flowing motion. Lisiecki takes a very Mozartian approach to this concerto; there are other ways to do it, but this one fits Lisiecki and his fluid style to a T. He doesn't quite scale these heights again on the rest of the program, although the Variations sérieuses, Op. 54, have a fine urgency. Nevertheless, Lisiecki is showing both intelligence and rare facility, and his interpretive insight is just beginning to develop.
by James Manheim