Eri Lu: Chopin, Beethoven (Warner Classics)

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The trouble with international competitions – apart from widespread jury corruption, too many events and an uneven entry level – is that they are under pressure to produce winners.  Common sense will tell you that there can’t be that many geniuses in the world for two dozen major contests to find them year in, year out, and commonsense is right. But competition audiences demand a clear result and contestants need to be assured that they have not entered for nothing. So, year in, year out, every competition must give prizes.

Eric Lu, 20 years old, won the Leeds International Competition in September. Part of the prize was a debut recording on Warner Classics. Ten years ahead, when his career is hopefully flourishing, I’m not sure Eric will think that was such a great idea.

In the Chopin F minor ballade, I hear no mark of distinction, nothing to tell me that Eric Lu is any different or more thoughtful than a dozen other young pianists I have heard this year. He chose the Chopin funeral-march sonata for his final round and played it, as in the Ballade, without touching the sides. I suspect the audience felt much the same, judging by the tepid applause.

Beethoven’s G-major concerto is another matter. I like the way Eric Lu phrases his entry and his ease of dialogue with Edward Gardner and the Halle Orchestra. This is a perfectly acceptable performance of the concerto, and perhaps a little more. I think the soloist could shed restraint here and there, but that will come with confidence and maturity. There is a sparkle to his touch that is undoubtedly attractive. Eric Lu, at this moment is a competition winner. He is not the finished article. He may yet get there.

NL

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About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review.

1 Comment

  1. I have reviewed Lu several times recently and yes, he can be inconsistent, awfully effective and stirring, and then less so, sort of lost and indifferent. (In accomplishment and viewpoint he’s not Niu Niu or Alex Beyer, for example.)
    To those covering him, I would note that it is entirely possible, if you’re anything other than wholehearted / unequivocal, as NL is here, that you will hear from his mother, unidentified but in public. And indeed from him, privately, in anguish, although if you care to be responsive, he does not engage.
    Just a heads-up: in these regards Lu not at all like other young talented aspiring competition pianists.

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