. issue XXI : vii .

by barathron

. artist : yundi .
. album : beethoven: pathétique | moonlight | appassionata .
. year : 2012 .
. label : deutsche grammophon .
. grade : a .


He’s no newbie at the game. Yundi Li, the youngest-ever winner of the prestigious International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in 2000 at eighteen years old, escapes temporarily from his favorite composer, Chopin, to record some of the most well known pieces by another, equally famous yet more classical period inclined artist: Beethoven. Li’s interpretation forthrightly displays his genius, apparent within each of the three sonatas: No. 8 – “Pathétique,” No. 14 “Moonlight,” and No. 23 “Appassionata.” The level of emotional engagement, as seen within his Chopin pieces, translates into respectable and extremely proficient interpretations for all of them. Undoubtedly, he has technical skill that rivals Lang Lang — another Chinese pianist — seen prominently within the first movement of the “Pathétique.” But what captures the heart of many loyal fans is his fantastic ability to imbue emotion into his interpretations and simplify, to our ears, melodies that are in fact extremely difficult.

This Chinese pianist’s playing style is heavily passionate, and hints of his trademark romantic-era style of playing are not lost in these interpretations. Each section, and even each measure, is crammed full of vivid color, through dynamics, articulation, and speed; even though some sections may be fast, each note is heard as his hands fly across the keyboard and the reoccurring motifs build off each other. In a moment, dynamics change from the softest pp to the loudest punchline of a sf or ff. Yet, he manages to capture all of them, sometimes in the span of a mere few seconds. Many people recognize Beethoven’s 1st movement of his “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, op. 27 no. 2” as the “Moonlight Sonata,” but fewer people will recognize the other two movements. In this way, Yundi’s Beethoven album gives listeners the opportunity to expand their appreciation and understand classical music on a deeper level. Rather than limiting one’s knowledge to “mainstream” classical music, exposure to more obscure and less popular pieces will open doors to the extreme depth that this genre of music has to offer.

by Justin Lau