Avan Yu, the Canadian pianist who is best known to Sydney audiences for his splendid rendition of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op 43 at the 2012 SIPCA which won him First Prize appears here in his debut recording for Naxos, with Liszt's transcriptions of 'Winterreise' (Winter's Journey" and 'Schwanengesang' (Swansong) by Schubert. This is an interesting and unusual choice for a debut album but an exciting one as it shows Yu off as an individualist who isn't afraid to use his extraoridinary technical ability to exhibit a lyrical and connected playing style together with controlled graduations of dynamics and phrasing. Liszt transcribed over 50 of Schubert's songs, mostly between the years 1833 to 1846. He is faithful to the melodic lines and of course adds his own course of virtuosic embellishments to turn them into individually technically demanding works of their own. The essence of these works lies in the ability to appreciate Schubert's incredible poetic song writing ability together with Liszt's effective moulding of the piano & voice for piano alone. Yu displays an exceptional ability to fuse these elements together in these virtusic essays for the piano. Of particular note Am Meer from Schwanengesang delivers a gorgeous songlike quality and colourful intensity together with some brilliantly conceived dramatic interludes with some 'fire in the belly' writing in the left hand. Avan Yu is a formidable young pianist whose light has shone extremely brightly here. His touch and technique are superb. I would love to hear a lot more of Liszt from him, particularly the Transcendental Etudes which I think would be right up his alley. The engineering quality of this disc is excellent. Very highly recommended.
Five out of five stars.