As soon as the opening chords of the Beethoven are struck and the magnificent cadenza unfolds, the scene is set for, a compelling and magisterial reading -- an epic view . . . The first movement is everything it should be: bold, imposing, strong and virile. Both the aristocratic and heroic characters are established in the opening tutti by Daniel Harding and his Berlin players. What impressed me is that the performance is never excessive and there is a notable absence of any grandstanding, which can kill it dead in its tracks. Harding is a sensitive collaborator, who has an innate understanding of the structure and architecture of the work. He gives both soloist and orchestra each their moment in the sun. In the second movement, Yundi achieves an exquisite diaphanous tone. Phrases are beautifully shaped and dynamics spot-on. Harding remains responsive at all times, and I love the way he coaxes the woodwinds, striking an ideal balance between them and the soloist. The finale enters without a break with Yundi setting an upbeat and buoyant tempo. His wonderful technique enables him to handle the demands that this concerto presents. It all ends in a blaze of glory. This stands up well to competition in a very crowded field . . . [Schumann]: Yundi delivers a passionate and sensitively sculpted performance. The wonderful left-hand semiquavers that accompany the opening melody underpin a grand gesture and romantic sweep. There's great nobility here. The grandiose march theme of the second movement is judiciously paced, with the obsessive dotted rhythms that follow conveying no signs of monotony. Yundi's brilliant virtuosic technique enables him to convincingly bring off the treacherous leaping skips in the coda. How many times do we hear caution or strain here, or even misfires -- not so with Yundi. The poetic and sublime finale sounds like an extended song without words. This is truly transcendental playing, conveying a sense of otherworldliness . . . The piano sound in both items is warm and full. Balance between piano and orchestra in the Beethoven is ideal. For those who admire prodigious pianism, this is a treat not to be missed.
Beethoven's Emperor Concerto played by a top-flight team . . .
. . . the performances are characteristic of this Chinese pianist -- energetic, propulsive, fierce, and brilliant . . . Yundi's vigorous displays of technique are incisive and muscular, and his tone cuts cleanly through the Berlin Philharmonic's orchestral accompaniment, so there is a real purpose to his style of attack . . . In quieter passages, Yundi pulls back and softens his tone to bring out the lyrical side of the music . . .
. . . Yundi Li has now crafted a performance of Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto for piano and orchestra that is full of attack and punch. This is very much a contemporary take on Beethoven, with a big, fulsome sound from the Berlin Philharmonic under Daniel Harding, which appears to take the line that this is what Beethoven would have sounded like had he had the resources. Li's solo recording of Schumann's "Fantasy in C major" is a much softer, more considered affair . . . it's hard not to be impressed.
. . . [Beethoven 5]: having Daniel Harding conduct the Berlin Philharmonic is a huge bonus, his tempi generally quick but never sounding rushed, and with the whole thing having a sense of excitement. But from the moment Yundi himself enters with that famous theme, it's clear that this is a young soloist who really has the goods, oddly enough, without affectation or mannerism -- just lovely clear, musical insight and a singing, legato line. And then there's the slow movement, which really is so rapt in mood and played with such poetic lyricism that you not only start falling in love with it all over again but even consider comparing Yundi's spell-binding performance with that of the greats.
. . . [Yundi] serves up the composer's "name" concerto with comparable assurance, power, style, and taste. He defiantly dispatches each technical difficulty, from the first movement's right-hand double thirds against the descending left-hand scales to the finale's torrential coda . . . [2nd movement]: Yundi's subtle accentuations give the long lyrical lines a welcome cutting edge.
An impressive Beethoven No 5 from Yundi . . . with a glorious orchestral accompaniment . . . What's most impressive here are is colossal chordal progressions in the Beethoven and his willingness to let the orchestra have their fair share of the limelight . . .