Yeol Eum Son / Neville Marriner / Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 21, K 467; Sonata, K 330; Variations on "Lison dormait", K 264; Fantasy, K 475

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The Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son has attracted admirers in venues of multiple types: in the buttoned-down world of the classical music competition, and in the broad popular arena of YouTube, where a video of Son performing the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467, has attracted some ten million views. Son chooses that concerto for her Mozart debut, and here she has the added advantage of backing by Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. This was, in fact, the last recording made by Marriner before his death in 2016, and many will want it for that reason alone: his deliberate tempos, carefully setting the stage for the brilliant young Korean, are worth the price of admission in themselves. The star of the show, however, is Son, and the elusive quality that made classical-wary YouTubers flock to her is fully in evidence. There are more individualistic Mozart players, but Son has a unique way of considering these works in great detail and yet the music seems to flow out of her spontaneously. She's at her best in the concerto (sample the opening movement), where Marriner grasps what she's about and frames her to perfection. But all the music, including the little-played Variations for piano on "Lison dormait", K. 264, has the same compelling, inevitable quality. Son's competition training shows in the way she cultivates a wide range of attack, from edgy to liquid, and in a certain formality. But she's clearly got the stuff to reach a large public directly, and this album is an exciting step in her emergence.

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