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Piano Prodigies Hold Joint Concert

Thunderous applause could be heard outside the Great Hall of People on Saturday night as conductor Mikhail Pletnev ended the concert with the "Spring Festival Overture."

Audiences appeared to be amazed and in awe of the Russian National Orchestra under the baton of its founder and artistic director Pletnev and young Chinese pianist, Li Yundi.

The two geniuses - Pletnev, who won the golden prize at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 1978 at the age of 21, and Li who was the champion of the 14th Chopin International Piano Competition in 2000 when he was only 18 years old - were a sparkling combination when they performed Chopin's Piano Concerto No 1.

An outstanding specialist of Chopin, Pletnev himself has re-orchestrated the third movement as a tribute to Chopin.

"I like the piano recital part but could not accept its orchestra which sounds a little bit insipid and loose," explained Pletnev, "so I tried to enrich it and make its tone more colorful."

The Russian musician expressed his artistic conception well through Rossini's "La Gazza Ladra Overture" and Sibelius' Symphony No 2 in D Major.

He has no striking gestures when directing but audiences could definitely sense his love and passion for the music flowing through his baton. "La Gazza Ladra Overture" stressed Sibelius' special structural and tonal mastery, as well as an abundance of atmosphere, ranging from warm to thrillingly powerful.

His encore performance, "Spring Festival Overture," composed by Chinese musician Li Huanzhi (1919-2000), ended the concert which thrilled members of the audience.

Sentimental, indecisive and flowery, is how Li Yundi interprets Chopin.

Although the spacious Great Hall of the People and mediocre sound system weakened the power of his playing, Li's exquisite technique and passion tone through.

"He has a deep sense of lyricism, tone and dynamism that goes well beyond his young age," commented Bao Huiqiao, a renowned Chinese pianist.

Yet Li seemed a little bit nervous and somewhat exaggerated his superb techniques.

"He still needs to enrich his repertoires and improve his artistic conception," said critic Chen Li.

An anonymous local critic also made a pertinent comment that as a young musician lacking in life experience, Li should pay more attention to the connotation of the music instead of superficial techniques.

Similar remarks were made by Pletnev at the news conference before the concert began when a local reporter asked how he grew from a gifted young pianist to a renowned versatile musician. "Having a gift is only one factor to success," he said. "You must work hard and tentatively."

After winning the 14th International Chopin Competition in Warsaw as the youngest gold medallist in the 70-year-old history of the competition, as well as the first winner of the prize in 15 years (the prize was not awarded in the previous two competitions), Li entered Hannover Conservatory in Germany under the tuition of Arie Vardi.

Li said: "Playing in concerts is just a small part of my life now, as I am concentrating on studying."

As well as Chopin, he is also learning Beethoven and Liszt.

"I wish to become a versatile pianist instead of a Chopin specialist," he said.

(China Daily February 07, 2002)

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