George Li: Live at the Mariinsky REVIEW

10.22.17
George Li
Gramophone

A photograph of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition silver medallist on the disc cover shows a young man looking into the camera with an open, winning smile. It makes a change from the normal haughty or glum poses that normally greet the paying customer. And it’s a smile that might well find itself transferred to that customer’s face when they hear the Haydn sonata which begins George Li’s recital at the Mariinsky Concert Hall, St Petersburg, in October 2016. It’s the kind of dextrous, bubbling, life-affirming performance that cannot help but lift the spirits and make one eager to hear what follows.

The opening of the first movement of the ‘Funeral March’ Sonata does not quite match expectations. Neither the ambiguous pulse of the first subject nor the leading voice is sufficiently defined but the performance blossoms and flourishes as it continues (he takes the repeat from the doppio movimento bar, not da capo); the Scherzo is crisp and punchy; the eponymous third movement is unusually doleful and heartfelt, with the Trio providing a genuine sense of consolation; and the finale is superbly coloured and phrased.
 
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