The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Peter Dobrin
Portrait of a pianist. Haochen Zhang was a pianist about whom aficionados were whispering expectant superlatives as he came through the Curtis Institute of Music. The next Yuja Wang, perhaps? Now, the 2012 Curtis graduate has released a studio album on BIS Records of some ambition: Schumann's Kinderszenen, the Liszt Ballade No. 2 in B Minor, Brahms' Three Intermezzi, and Janácek's Piano Sonata 1.X.1905, "From the Street."
Some might recall the 2011 Curtis recital when he filled in for Wang after travel problems. Zhang, who won a Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medal in 2009, was 20 at the time of that recital, and many of the characteristics he displayed then are apparent in this recording: restraint and control - until a specific moment of arrival.
The Kinderszenen are lovely, and he alternates between a gauzy dream state and great heat in the Liszt. Janácek arrives with a finely shaped sense of quiet, questioning wonder. Zhang's love for Brahms was clear at that Curtis recital. So, too, here, where he uncovers ideas well beyond those apparent from just the written note.