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Genius Pianist

"Li is more than just technique. His playing has soul and poetry. The gentle lyricism of the mazurkas (music for a kind of Polish dance) is idiomatic and musical, the phrasing at once elegant and idiomatic."


Comments like the above went to the youngest prizewinner in the history of the Warsaw International Chopin Competition. In 2000, the 18-year-old Chinese pianist Yundi Li took the gold medal at the 14th Warsaw International Chopin Competition, becoming the first pianist in 15 years to be deemed worthy of the top prize. (Chopin was a famous composer born in Poland.)


The Frederick Chopin International Piano Competition is one of the oldest events of its type in the world, and enjoys great prestige and universal renown. Since 1927 when it was first held in the concert hall of the Warsaw Philharmonic, the program has been devoted entirely to passing on Chopin tradition as well as distinguishing those who are adept at interpreting the spirit of Chopin works. The judging is so tough that in 1990 and 1995 no performances were deemed good enough for a gold medal. For this reason, "Genius Pianist" is not an exaggerated praise entitled to Yundi Li.



Given that Li was entirely Chinese-trained, his accomplished performance not only underscores the idea that art is universal, but it also demonstrates that China's educational system has reached a high level in terms of classical music instruction. Actually, it is not a rare event when Chinese names appear on the Chopin winner list. In the 1955 edition, Chinese contestant Fou T'song placed third. And ever since, Western musical circles have heard of from time to time the Chinese piano players like Mingqiang Li, Yifan Liu, Shiqun Liu, Lang Lang, and Sa Chen.


Voice of the Musical Circles


"Li is so concentrated, and gifted with a spiritual affinity with music. His playing gives voice to the profound meanings inherent in the composition. The most striking aspect of Yundi Li's performance is his sensibility combined with a romantic vein, the qualities that Chopin equally possesses…" says professor Dan Zhaoyi who has instructed Yundi Li for nearly 10 years.


"With his intimate readings he brings something fresh to these well-known works. He has a strong sense for both the lyricism as well as the drama in Chopin's works, always drawing the listener's attention to the beauty of the music."



"Yundi Li never cheats in order to get round difficult passages, never smudges them by using the pedal. Every detail is explored to the full, every nuance examined, every phrase immaculately balanced."


Janpoqis, the special commentator of the Warsaw International Chopin Competition, reviews that Li's marvelous blend of prodigious technique, innate musicality, and above all, a poetic soul demonstrates that he is an exceptional genius and masters the spirit of Chopin.


"The calmness of Yundi Li's playing comes from the extraordinary mobility and flexibility of his fingers and hands. The result is a type of piano playing that is exciting precisely because it is so natural. The mysteries and depths lie in the music itself. And these appear even more powerful when played in so wonderfully light and sensitive a way."


Li's Commitment to Music Since a Child


Yundi Li was born in 1982 in Chongqing , the attractive city in Southeast China. His outstanding musical talent became apparent very early: At the tender age of five he won the first prize at the Chongqing Children's Accordion Competition. In 1989 he received his first piano lessons and two years later he took up his studies with Dan Zhaoyi, one of China's most renowned piano teachers.



Even when young, Yundi Li hosted the ambition of becoming a professional pianist. In 1994 he became a pupil at the junior high school attached to the Sichuan Music Academy and just one year later he won the Stravinsky International Youth Piano Competition held in Champaign, Illinois (USA). Further accolades followed.


In 1998 he won the Missouri Southern International Youth Piano Competition in Joplin, Missouri (USA), and the following year the Liszt International Piano Competition in Utrecht of the Netherlands and the China International Youth Piano Competition in Beijing .


His greatest triumph came in October 2000 when he was awarded first prize at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. In addition, Yundi Li received an award for the best performance of a Polonaise and distinguished himself as one of the youngest first-prize winners in the history of the competition. The year 2001 saw the signing of an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon in Shenzhen, which is also the label of the other Chinese piano wunderkind, Lang Lang.


After graduating from the Shenzhen Arts School in 2001, Yundi Li chose to pursue his music study in the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hanover. His present teacher is Arie Vardi in Hanover.


Recital Tours around the World


Since 2001, Yundi Li has held a slew of international concerts, including Russia, Germany, France, Britain, the United States, Austria, Spain, Poland, and Canada. The immeasurable virtuosity imbued by the veins of charming melancholy has helped him win praise worldwide.





Name: Yundi Li


Birthday: October 7, 1982


Birthplace: Chongqing Municipality


Education: Trained for accordion at the age of 4 and piano at the age of 7; studied professional piano under professor Dan Zhaoyi when aged 9; currently a student at Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hanover




1995 -- placed third at the Stravinsky International Youth Piano Competition held in Champaign, Illinois (USA).


1998 -- placed third at the Missouri Southern International Youth Piano Competition held in Joplin, Missouri (USA).


1999 -- placed third at the Liszt International Piano Competition held in Utrecht, the Netherlands.


1999 -- placed third at the China International Youth Piano Competition held in Beijing.


2000 -- the first winner of the International Chopin Competition held in Warsaw.


Recital Discs


2001 -- Yundi Li ·Chopin


2002 -- Yundi Li ·Liszt


2004 -- Chopin: Scherzi and the Impromptus


(chinaculture December 19, 2005)

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