Yundi Li – Emperor / Fantasy

Proud and extravagantly lavish, Yundi relishes in the moment of Beethoven’s prime concertos and doubles it up with a riveting performance of Schumann’s Fantasy in C major for solo piano. If you ever wanted to know how a pianist could sound like a stampeding bull with no sense of slowing down, the latest album from Yundi is the prime blueprint.

Emperor/Fantasy marks a renaissance for the budding international sensation but relatively lesser known pianist in the states. The album somewhat serves as a coming out party and a major exclamation point of arrival for Yundi. There’s a remarkable “stand aside” opulence that surrounds Emperor/Fantasy that lets Yundi simply radiate on the piano while the Berliner Philharmoniker practically revels in his presence with a very loud, gung-ho support role. Emperor/Fantasy lives up to its title, with Yundi fearless with his speedy interpretations and downright audacious to the rulebook of Beethoven’s primetime of concertos. There’s glances of arrogance in the way he marvels Beethoven’s Emperor concerto and with good measure. Yundi’s exudes dashes of confident swagger that breathes a mighty stance to Beethoven’s piano concerto No 5. that not only justifies a more forceful push but a more demanding weight of adeptness.

Throughout Beethoven’s Emperor concerto, it never becomes easy to ever lose sight of Yundi amidst the superbness that is the Berliner Philharmoniker, despite their very racy nature and somewhat overzealous charge.  Emperor/Fantasy is one of the finer recordings the Berliner Philharmoniker appear on in which they can point to in terms of absolute competence.  They are equally as engaged in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and the vibrating energy between Yundi and them is not only well-timed but emotionally sweeping.  But indeed the spotlight never veers far from Yundi whose hands dance sublimely on the piano. By the end of the Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, the elevation is near orgasmic.

Yundi brings the same airiness to Schumann’s Fantasie but with a more calculated sophistication. The focus is a bit more driven here than on Beethoven’s Emperor concerto and as a result, a less pizzaz. Nonetheless, the vigor of Schumann’s original voice and Yundi’s approach is just as fair to say fairly close if not equal to those of Maurizio Pollini or Vladimir Horowitz. In fact, its not a far stretch to say they come across levels more demure to Yundi’s recording.

Emperor/Fantasy is vibrantly youthful and energetic throughout but without the compromise of dissonance that so many pianists become accustomed to when hitting Beethoven’s highlight piano concertos. The splashiness by which Yundi injects is shades more exciting than most modern day versions and marvelously on a cloud nine level. There is a style of interpretation on this record that is full of color and imagination without limits; an honest liberation of hands exploding with expression.
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