THE COMPLETE PRELUDES is one of Chopin's most loved and commercial sets of compositions, and Yundi’s first Chopin recording in 5 years. Yundi's last set of Chopin (The Complete Nocturnes on EMI in 2010) still dominates his streaming charts with his top ten most streamed tracks on Spotify all stemming from this set – getting these replaced with the Preludes is a target of the marketing campaign. The release ties in with the 15th anniversary of Yundi's legendary victory at the International Warsaw Chopin Competition in 2000. At 18 he was the youngest and first ever Chinese winner and it was the first time in 15 years that a ‘First Prize’ had been awarded.
Esteemed pianist Samson Francois interprets pieces by Chopin. His performance is poised, powerful and exhilarating, driven by his deep appreciation for Chopin’s works. With astounding sound quality, Francois exudes pianism at its finest. A definitive collection for any audiophile.
When the name Chopin is mentioned, what often comes to mind first are his Nocturnes and their dreamy qualities. Chopin, of course, wrote much more than that, and some of it is quite dramatic and intense. However, Daniel Barenboim seems to have missed getting that memo before recording Chopin's Preludes and the other works on this album. There is both drama and intensity in at least a few of the Preludes, often overdone, but not here. Those marked agitato, Nos. 1, 8, and 22, are placidly performed, with little impetus to them, while the "Polish Dance," No. 7, has no strength in it. No. 12 in G sharp minor has a little more energy, and No. 16 has a little more forcefulness, both coming closer than the other Preludes to living up to their potential. At the opposite extreme, Barenboim is generous with meaningful rubato in No. 17. The softness, gracefulness, and relaxed nature of Barenboim's playing works well for the Berceuse, but not for much else. The Polonaise-Fantasy still leans toward weaker drama than it could have; the brillantes aspect of the Ludiovic Variations is lost until the very end; and the Paganini Variations sound like a Nocturne throughout. There is little bombast in Chopin's music, but even if Barenboim were trying to avoid melodrama, a little more resolve in these works would have been nice.(Patsy Morita)