Arts Blog

Yundi returns to Chopin, and Poland

Yundi, who at 18 was the youngest winner of the Chopin International Competition, is renowned for his interpretation of the great, Polish-born Romantic composer. Chopin’s music has continued to figure in Yundi’s recitals in recent years, but after his first few CDs, the Chinese pianist moved on to other corners of the repertoire, recording Prokofiev, Liszt, Beethoven and the like.

Now, with “Yundi Chopin: Preludes” (on Deutsche Grammophon), Yundi’s back to where he started, at least with the composer. At 33, and with 15 years between his big win and now, Yundi has refined his interpretation. I’ve always enjoyed Yundi’s Chopin performances, for his sensitive and nuanced approach. Now it seems even more so. I’ve heard plenty of recordings of the 24 Preludes of Opus 28 (and there are two more, by the way) where the main effect is stressing dynamic contrasts. Yundi’s utilizes that effect, but not for shock value or to test your sound system’s limits. The contrasts are tied to an emotional journey that Chopin takes us on.

This is late-period Chopin, when he had escaped the damp climate of Paris for what he hoped would be drier air for his tuberculosis, on Mallorca. Unfortunately, the weather was crummy there, too, and did him no good. Except, happily for us, in these marvelously-varied preludes. I think you’ll enjoy how Yundi revisits the composer’s past, as well as his own, in the pianist’s life-long relationship with this most sensitive of Romantic composers. Yundi and I had a great and insightful conversation about this recording, his return to Poland (now to be a judge in the Chopin competition, alongside Martha Argerich and Garrick Ohlsson), and plans for the future. It’s good to hear Yundi back with his old friend.

Yundi: Chopin Preludes
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