Records are made to be broken, even in classical music. When then-24-year-old Korean HJ Lim recorded the (just-about) complete Beethoven Sonatas for EMI (Warner), released for a tenner on iTunes, it made a splash more for its audacity than quality. Two years later, in 2014, she was bested in every way: Swiss-born Chinese pianist Mélodie Zhao had done it at 19… and much more gratifyingly. Take the confident rhythms of the Largo of op.7, the muscular Finale of op.10/1, the unsuspected sweetness of op.14/1, the staggered Andante of the Appassionata, the terrifically lilting op.27, or the wistful op.30: the fresh, vivid, never fidgety playing of Mlle. Zhao’s delivers much and promises even more. (See also: the ionarts Beethoven Sonata Survey) There is nothing flash-in-the-pan about it. Is it the last word in Beethoven cycles? Silly idea, that. But which such cycle could make such a claim, except for some of the classics that carry with them the reverence of ages? But it is a cycle to which I will gladly return, and often, right along Backhaus II, Kodama, Gilels, Nat, and Pollini. More to the point, it is a tell-tale sign that we will hear much of Mélodie Zhao in the next decades. A whole lot more than of HJ Lim, for that matter.
¶ Jens F. Laurson writes about classical music and has contributed to "Surprised by Beauty - A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music". You can follow him on Twitter @ClassicalCritic.
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Article source: Forbes by Jens F. Laurson, the 2nd August 2017
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