Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
The 24 short pieces making up Tchaikovsky’s Album for the Young Op. 39 were inspired by Schumann’s similarly named set of children’s teaching pieces. Their technical demands are modest, yet their melodic invention and diversity of mood never fail to enchant. The twelve Op. 40 pieces are comparably charming, if less memorable on the whole.
What’s not to love about Yuan Sheng’s superb technique, sensitivity, warmth, and taste? He does more than just play the notes. The March of the Wooden Soldiers, for example, has a little more swagger to its step than usual; the Polka sings as well as kicks, in contrast to, say Olli Mustonen’s exaggerated staccatos; and Sheng phrases the woodwind-like chords in Nanny’s Story with a balletic lilt that leaves Valentina Lisitsa’s slow and emphatic rendition at the starting gate.
I still lean toward Luba Edlina’s excellent Op. 39 on Chandos, mainly because it’s coupled with Rostislav Dubinsky’s wonderful string quartet arrangements of all 24 pieces. But you can’t go wrong with Yuan Sheng, nor Piano Classics’ fine engineering and annotations.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: This one; Edlina (Chandos)
- TCHAIKOVSKY, PIOTR ILYICH:Album for the Young Op. 39; 12 Pieces for Piano of Medium Difficulty Op. 40
- Yuan Sheng (piano)
- Piano Classics - 10245