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St George’s Bristol

An exceptional recital reveals why the young pianist, who won the 2018 Leeds piano competition, is one of the most exciting prospects in a long time.

The Chinese American Eric Lu turns 21 next month, yet in this first UK recital since winning the Leeds International Piano Competition in September, his performance showed the kind of grace and wisdom that usually comes only with great age.

It’s tempting to suggest that Lu made his mark from the programme’s fortissimo opening note. In fact, he did so in the second, third, and fourth notes of the Schubert Impromptu in C minor, played with such pianissimo finesse as to be breathtaking. This instant impression of interpretive lucidity and daring was confirmed in each successive impromptu of the D899 sequence of four. And in the Chopin Ballade in F minor that followed, came idiomatic and deeply instinctive shaping of every phrase.

Mozart’s Rondo in A minor, K511, was gently anguished, but with the clarity and control that made it a perfect prelude to Chopin’s Second Sonata in B flat minor. Here was impeccable technique with no trace of histrionics: Lu’s calm focus was on the essential character of the music and quality of sound. It is an exceptional pianist who can deliver limpid legato tone of aching beauty and bring to the different appearances of a melody implicit understanding and infinitely nuanced colours. In the central Marche Funèbre, he made time stand still.

It might be best to avoid hyping a youngster at the start of his career, but Lu seems already to possess something of the magic touch of early Leeds laureates Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu, and is surely one of the most exciting prospects in a long time. A veritable poet of the keyboard.

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