By Erica Jeal
Haochen Zhang is both a prodigiously award-winning pianist and a self-confessed introvert, and the wide-ranging choice of repertoire on his first studio disc reflects this. He captures the childish, quickly dissipating seriousness of Schumann’s Kinderszenen, and plays it with the kind of artistry that sounds sincerely artless.
Liszt’s Ballade No 2 has Zhang creating great rumbling waves in the left hand, then closing in an atmosphere of hard-won peace. In this, and in Janáček’s Sonata 1 X 1905, he excels in conveying the larger shape of the piece, knitting the phrases together into long paragraphs, yet he doesn’t short-change the showier passages. Brahms’s Three Intermezzos, Op 117, make for an understated close to an intimate, inward-looking disc, and their feeling of slow rise and fall evokes the breathing of a huge creature asleep. Rarely on this recording does his playing make a forceful bid for the attention, but it certainly rewards close listening.