Pianist Ji Liu, with the gauzy Piano Reflections (2014) and Piano Encores (2015) albums, became a favorite with Britain's crossover-oriented Classic FM radio network, and this group of Chopin standards marked a logical next step for his career. Certainly Liu's charisma is an important part of the marketing effort, but the fact is that this is a Chopin collection that holds together in a satisfying way. Liu himself, in the largely unedited booklet notes, points out the difficulty in entering the crowded field of Chopin-favorites albums, but his work is distinctively his own. Instead of trying to out-emote his competitors, he goes the opposite direction, reducing the tempo rubato total considerably and playing a lot of the big tunes straightforwardly. Tempo rubato is applied at phrase ends and in transitions. The results are not wooden in the least; the music has a nice forward energy and a kind of swing. Liu is perhaps least effective in the Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, which demands a more monumental treatment, but sample one of the famous waltzes, perhaps the Waltz in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2 (track five), for a performance in which the player does not get between the music and the audience. This is uncomplicated Chopin that fits the purposes for which it was designed.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor Op. 35 "Marche Funèbre"|