Yundi Li : Liszt
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Welly Wu

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Once again, Deutsche Grammophon took a gamble by putting its sterling reputation in the hands of a largely unknown young kid hailing from Chongqing, People's Republic of China named Yundi Li. How young is he dare you ask? He was only twenty years old and had only one record under his belt by DG entitled Yundi Li : Chopin. If you think that all young kids are basically the same worldwide, then you sir are mistaken.

Yundi Li : Liszt Recital was recorded in Berlin in the Teldex-Studio on 10 / 2002. The executive producer was Christopher Alder and the recording producer was Christian Gansch. The Recording engineer and editor was Dagmar Birwe. It was recorded, edited, and mastered by Emil Berliner Studios in 2003 by DG. It is pure DDD. There are only but nine tracks on this Red Book CD comprising fifty-eight minutes and forty-eight seconds -- less than one hour -- of rapturous music played with dexterous fingers and by a keen mind. Liszt's crowning masterpiece encompasses the birth and death of a person's life and Li captures that story with stirring passion and startling maturity. He is wise enough to know how to play quieter passages with mellow tenderness and roaring sections with relentless attack. Oh, did I mention he was only twenty when he recorded his second album?

If you would love to be told intimate portraits of a person's private life by two consummate pianists, then go buy Yndi Li : Liszt Recital now.
 
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daycart1

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And it is HDCD!

Haven't heard it yet, but I hope to soon.
 
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Welly Wu

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Quote:

Originally posted by daycart1
And it is HDCD!


Daycart1:

Are you sure it is HDCD? I got the original CD in front of me and it says nothing of that. I wish I could play HDCD discs with my source but I just can't confirm anything other than it sounds superb both sonically and as a musical performance.
 
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daycart1

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I've seen it advertised as such...could it have been issued in both formats?
 
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Yundi Li can play: his delicate fingering is wonderful on romantic works such as those by Chopin and Listz, yet I suppose he needs time to develop his repertiore. He is very showy on stage, which can be a distraction.

DDG, however, is content to market him as a heart-throb: he is very big among the Hong Kong 15-25 female demographic.
 
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some1x

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The album cover for the chopin album is kinda disturbing... but if he can play the etudes half as well as Pollini then it'd be worth it!
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by some1x
The album cover for the chopin album is kinda disturbing... but if he can play the etudes half as well as Pollini then it'd be worth it!


Pollini? probably not yet (Li's playing is still on the "showy" rather than the "insightful" side); given time, who knows.

Let's hope DDG don't cast Li into the maul of crossover music.
 
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Quote:

He was only twenty years old and had only one record under his belt by DG entitled Yundi Li : Chopin.


actually, he has other recordings too. when i was in china, he was plastered EVERYWHERE. and i remember many commercials of him playing other tunes, not written by Chopin.
Quote:

I've seen it advertised as such...could it have been issued in both formats?


it's quite possible. in China, every CD is HDCD. it's a marketing gimmick--surely doesn't mean it's mastered any better than the standard CD version. doesn't mean anything.

anyway, i wouldn't worry about whether you have the hdcd or regular version... i wouldn't be surprised if they're identical, except being in slightly different formats.
 
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daycart1

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I think it is OK to post this with the url and copyright info. If not, will a mod please delete the text, but leave the URL? THanks.

=========

For prodigies, harsh reality, like genius, comes early
Steven Winn, Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback | FAQ

URL: sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/04/21/DDG8767IRD1.DTL

Click to View

It all goes at warp speed -- the fingers, the torrent of shining runs and chords, and most all the meteoric flight of a piano prodigy's career. Quick to exhibit and develop an inborn gift, the prodigy is just as rapidly trained, displayed, extravagantly praised, exploited, reviled, relentlessly marketed, discarded and/or occasionally rediscovered. Whole artistic lifetimes can be unnaturally packed into a few short years.

The prodigy tests the truth of the "art is long, life is short" maxim. Sometimes, as the spoils of a crash-and-burn story attest, life stretches on well past a brief and fragile artistic flare. For every Mozart, Liszt or André Watts who apparently thrived on early success, just as many have struggled with its emotional costs (Glenn Gould, Martha Argerich) or foundered undiscovered by a musical public that once seemed their inevitable birthright.

One of the grimmest stories began in San Francisco in the late 1920s, when Ruth Slenczynska's father, a failed violinist, used a regimen of marathon rehearsals and incessant beatings for mistakes to march his daughter to the concert stage. She made her piano recital debut at age 4. Slenczynska eventually broke with her father (and temporarily with her instrument), made a comeback on her own terms at 29, and lived to tell the tale in her book "Forbidden Childhood."

Slenczynska was openly regarded as a freak in her prodigy phase. At her Berlin debut, critics insisted on examining her piano for some mechanical chicanery that could account for such mastery at an early age.

Today, in a musical world shrunk by airline travel, recording technology and far-flung conservatories, prodigies are no longer regarded as sideshow curiosities. Some writers, in fact, have argued for their broad significance.

"The very existence of the prodigy is itself a gift of immense importance, for the phenomenon offers insights into the working of the human mind," writes David Henry Feldman in "Nature's Gambit: Child Prodigies and the Development of Human Potential." Prodigies not only teach us about expression and development, Feldman continues, but "... something about how human development has gotten where it is, why it has gotten there, and perhaps how we might choreograph our uniquely human dance."

Whatever Platonic fascinations they might hold, supremely gifted young musicians also live in a bruising real world of managers, agents, recording contracts, talented and carefully cultivated rivals, standard-bearing critics and a listening public fine-tuned by CDs, pirated downloads and the world-wide whir of Internet music sites and chat rooms.

Look no further than the case of Lang Lang, the tall, charismatic crowd- thriller who burst on the international scene as a teenager in a shower of ecstasy and glamour, to witness the velocity of the fast track. A sensation at 17, after subbing for Watts in a Chicago Symphony performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1, Lang collected critical accolades and an adoring following in a way that press agents can only dream. He was like the Chinese second coming of Van Cliburn.

Before he turned 20, the backlash had already set in. Doubters carped at his quirky interpretations and mannered stage presence. His friskiness at the keyboard earned comparisons to Jerry Lee Lewis and Chico Marx. As for his music-making, a New York Times critic sneered last year, it was "incoherent, self-indulgent and slam-bang crass." But never mind: Lang's concert career charges on, and he may be the most assertively marketed classical musician of his time.

Last weekend, in a rare confluence engineered by San Francisco Performances, Lang and Yundi Li, another of the world's most scrutinized young keyboard talents, shot through town on successive nights.

Lang, the controversial showman, played a sold-out performance Saturday night at Herbst Theatre. A demure Li followed suit Sunday and Monday at the Florence Gould Theatre in the Palace of the Legion of Honor.

It was an inviting occasion to take the temperature of these closely attended artists, each of whom claims the ripe age of 21, and their fans. Born just a few months apart in China, both artists are now concert and recording veterans. Both won face-offs with other pianists early and often. Lang was 5 when he took top honors at the Shenyang Piano Competition. Li won the prestigious Warsaw Chopin Competition at 17.

Both now record on the Deutsche Grammophon label. Different as they are in bearing, musical approach and imprint and their connection to an audience, Lang and Li both project an air of self-possession, what Van Cliburn calls a "natural wonder and oldness." That's the subliminal tension and dramatic aura of any prodigy as he approaches maturity. Will chronological age enrich -- or shatter -- a preternatural talent and presence?

Lang, for this first-time live listener, was not quite the outsize figure, musically or theatrically, his reputation predicted. Yes, he's given to expansive rubato, bending and taffy-pulling tempos (in Schummann's "Abegg" Variations) or oddly clipping a legato line (in a Haydn sonata) with a coy staccato. And yes, his big body comes into play, canting dramatically backward as he gazes heavenward or hunched over his busy right hand like a satisfied golfer following a perfect putt into the hole.

At his curtain calls, the crew-cut Lang becomes a triumphant heavyweight, shooting his huge hands up and out of his sleeves and grinning broadly.

But there was also plenty of cogent, sparkling and subtly shaded music in his program. The Haydn, all in all, was expertly carved and cunningly detailed with slightly altered accents in repeated phrases. A Scriabin Etude cast a mordant spell. Both in Tan Dun's "Eight Memories in Watercolor" and Liszt's "Reminiscences of 'Don Juan,' " which he opened with a procession of massive, stony chords, Lang proved himself a resourceful -- and OK, sometimes extravagant -- colorist.

Concert hall ascetics might have winced a bit when Lang ditched his jacket and changed into a collarless Chinese-style shirt with golden cuffs after intermission. But a strongly partisan crowd was with him all the way. Even skeptics had to be charmed when his father came on with his ehru, a two- stringed Chinese fiddle, to join his son in a jolly, propulsive encore.

It's hard to know where Lang's formidable, if willful, talent is headed. Right now, his concert program is a touring sales pitch for his "Lang Lang Live at Carnegie Hall" CD. Playing Schumann's "Traümerei" as his first encore may have offered one small clue to his future path.

Vladimir Horowitz, a famously eccentric crowd-pleaser whose unorthodox flat hand positions Lang sometimes uses, often programmed that simple child's piece. Look what these strange and mighty hands can do, the gesture says: They can make great music out of anything.

The atmosphere was altogether different at the Florence Gould on a rain- spattered Sunday evening. With the house lights kept low in the rotunda-like theater, the crowd seemed subdued, almost distant from Li. Slight, delicate and physically self-effacing -- his opulent thick hair is his sole indulgence -- he entered like a serious, slightly self-conscious schoolboy and got right to work. Early arrivers had heard him warming up backstage, like a student paging through the text one last time before an exam.

Li played Chopin's four Scherzos with a kaleidoscopic range of effects. The first, in B minor, was surging and transparent, a pure river of exquisitely phrased and pedaled sound. The second, in B-flat major, showcased a powerfully expressive left hand and inner phrases that darted in and out of view. Li opened the C-sharp minor Scherzo as if he were already pages ahead, plumbing the meaning of a theme at the listener's first hearing of it.

For all the cerebral depth and surprise of his playing (not all of it entirely persuasive), Li wasn't about to sell any of it to the crowd. He remained seated between the Scherzos, shooting only sidelong, unsmiling acknowledgements of the mild, perhaps puzzled applause.

The second half of the program, which was devoted to Liszt's sprawling Sonata in B minor, opened with an almost punishing solemnity. Eschewing the piece's lyrical surges, Li kept bearing in on its sonorous breadth and complexity. Several times he clamped down on the sustaining pedal to erect a vast, slowly decaying wall of sound in the house. This was serious stuff, a Liszt wholly unlike the swaggering "Don Juan" stuntman Lang had conjured the night before.

When it was over, and through a pair of Liszt encores and a bravura rendition of the traditional Chinese "Sunflowers," Li seemed to soften up. He smiled a bit, his hand resting companionably on the piano as he accepted the now blooming applause. It was, unmistakably, a boyish grin: Li sports a set of silver braces on his teeth.

Given their ages, shared Chinese heritage and similar paths, Lang and Li undoubtedly have much in common. But apparently they have met rarely and briefly. And then there's the hard, isolating arithmetic of what they do and what they're after. However they're received by the public, prodigies are keenly aware of the perilous, narrow path they travel from one year to the next and how very, very few can travel with them. In an interview with a Canadian music magazine, Lang said of Li, "His career is not big yet. I hope he will have a big career. ... I think it is very rare to become famous. The world has so many pianists."
 
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