Reviews of the debut album

Alkan: Symphony for Solo Piano and Concerto for Solo Piano


Wee’s technical command is awesome by any standards but he is no mere note-spinner, adding his own drama and colour to the bravura writing while being equally alive to the moments of lyrical repose. The spontaneity and drive of his playing smash the sterile confines of the studio. It is urgent, committed, compelling. […] It will certainly be one of my Discs of the Year.  It could become a classic.”

Gramophone (Editor’s Choice)

Pugnace, puissamment énergique, d’une précision et d’une régularité stupéfiantes, l’interprète déclenche des déluges de notes avec une aisance déconcertante et montre un abattage digne des plus grands virtuoses d’hier et d’aujourd’hui. […] Le jeu idéalement clair de Paul Wee donne un impact explosif à ce ballet d’une difficulté démoniaque. En fin musicien, l’interprète sait aussi rendre justice (ça le connaît) au caractère élégiaque du bel Adagio. Après ces débuts étourdissants au disque, Paul Wee ne peut pas nous priver d’autres témoignages de sa maîtrise hors norme du clavier.”

Diapason (Diapason d’Or)

The fourth through the seventh of Alkan’s Twelve Etudes in the Minor Keys Op. 39 comprise his Symphony for Solo Piano, while Etudes 8 through 10 represent the more daunting Concerto for Solo Piano. They require a pianist who possesses transcendental technical prowess, the stamina of a marathon runner, a sure command of large-scale structure, rhythmic élan, and a large portfolio of nuance and color. Paul Wee is precisely this pianist and more. […] To call this disc an auspicious solo recording debut is an understatement. Better to describe it with a single word: WOW!

ClassicsToday (10/10)

To judge from his choice of Charles-Valentin Alkan, Wee is no slouch technically. The two works here (which are in fact Nos 4 to 7 and 8 to 10 respectively of Alkan’s Twelve Studies in Minor Keys, Op. 39) are only playable by a small number of super-pianists who can provide the required technique and stamina. The challenges of the Symphony for Solo Piano increase through its four movements, ending with a finale that demands whirlwind sprays of razor-sharp octaves. When Alkan writes “Presto”, he is not making it easy. With the Concerto, there is the added hurdle of differentiating between passages that are “orchestral” and “solo”, and often a combination of the two. Wee does this superbly, not only through dynamics but also by his expressive use of phrasing and tempo. His stamina is readily apparent in the first movement, which lasts for half an hour.  […] An exceptional recording in every way.

Limelight (5/5)

But now comes Paul Wee who is not a professional pianist but an Australian barrister in London. Let me just say that his performances of both works are jaw-droppingly impressive. What sets this aside from the competition is the clarity and precision of Wee’s playing, combined with his ability for gradient colouring using a wide range of dynamics. I haven’t encountered a fiercer account of the Allegretto alla Barbaresca in the Concerto, nor a more mysterious Funeral March in the Symphony. But if you want to sample a combination of his lyricism and virtuosity just listen to the Adagio second movement of the Concerto for Solo piano and you will be easily convinced.  […] Paul Wee’s account of both works needs to be heard. Captured in ideal sound, he makes a strong compelling case for Busoni’s claim that Alkan was one of the great five composers for the piano since Beethoven.

The High Arts (5/5)

Wee is a sensation; there’s no other word to describe his jaw-dropping playing. This is the Australian pianist’s debut album, and it’s a blockbuster. Yet here’s the shocker. Playing the piano isn’t even Wee’s day job. The piano, he tells us, is his “love,” but professionally he’s a lawyer and barrister of London’s prestigious Gray’s Inn. I have a feeling that may change, though, as a result of this recording. No one who plays the piano like this can keep his talent to himself. That would be a crime against which barrister Wee would have to defend pianist Wee in court.  […] An exceptional release, urgently recommended to everyone.

Fanfare

This is an utterly mind-boggling performance in every respect and a fitting conclusion to a marvellous performance of this complex and extremely taxing work.  […] I have no hesitation whatsoever as recommending this disc to anyone who enjoys superb pianism – made even more incredible by the fact that Paul Wee isn’t a professional pianist – he is a barrister by profession, albeit one who trained in music before switching to the law. I really don’t know how someone manages to juggle a full-time career and be such an amazingly talented pianist – as Alkan himself might have put it “Chapeau bas!”

MusicWeb International (Recording of the Month)

‘Paul Wee – pianist and barrister’ is how this young Australian styles himself, and if his work at the bar is anything like as good as his pianism, his success in that business is assured. With this music, anyone’s pianism would be tested to its limits, for no 19th-century note-spinner built more towering keyboard edifices than these two works. […] Wee’s recording earns him a place in the history books.

International Piano (Critic’s Choice)

Paul Wee, qui plaide la cause d’Alkan avec éloquence et sait se montrer convaincant – normal, il est avocat dans un grand cabinet d’affaires londonien –, aborde ces amples partitions sans effets de manche mais avec précision et simplicité, avec un son très contrôlé.

Classica (5/5)

“[H]e achieves a filigree accuracy and, velocity aside, a tear-streak of real feeling […]  it would be criminally negligent not to bring it immediately to your attention as my likely record of the year.

The Spectator

“[T]otally astonishing… an absolutely tremendous disc.

BBC Radio 3 – Record Review