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Chopin Champion Now Top of the Liszt
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China's "other" world-beating young pianist returned to Beijing in triumph last week and treated fans and media with sweet sounds of Chopin and Liszt.

Li Yundi showed off his exquisite technique and brilliant phrasing, which delighted New York audiences at Carnegie Hall earlier this year. The soulful sounds of Li's deft touches and illuminating keystrokes resonated off the 600-year-old stonewalls of Beijing's Imperial Granary, in which Li held his album launch.

The inspiring preview reminded the Beijing gathering just how far the 24-year-old man had progressed, in a career often compared to his classical rival Lang Lang.

Li returns with a DG record "Yundi Li C Chopin/Liszt Piano Concerto No 1" released by Universal Music this month after five year's studies with Arie Vardi at the Hanover Conservatory of Music.

"Both the two concertos are among my favourite repertoires and I have expected to record them for a long time," said Li. "I played with my heart rather than the fingers and talked much with the recorders so as to record a high-quality album. It's hard to make a record achieve the same effect as the live concert, but I challenged to do it."

Li won first prize at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2000, becoming the first pianist in 15 years to be deemed worthy of the top prize. DG signed him six months later.

His playing of Chopin and Liszt is acclaimed throughout the world. Li describes the music of Chopin as "poetry and power."

It's easier for the press and classic lovers to compare Li with the other Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who at the same age of Li, burst on the international scene a year apart. Both profess respect for each other's artistry.

As Lang Lang toured the world garnering tons of publicity thanks to his flamboyant manner and playful demeanor, Li positioned himself as the more contemplative of the two and chose further study at the Hanover Conservatory of Music in 2001.

On December 3, Li will give a recital at Beijing's Century Theatre to announce his return. Then next year, he will tour the United States and Asia with Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Seiji Ozawa and Lorin Mazzel's New York Philharmonic.

(China Daily November 13, 2006)

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