Red Star

Li Yundi

China’s pianist hits wrong notes


Born in Chongqing in October 1982, Li Yundi is a classical pianist who became the youngest person to win the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition. He comes from a family of non-musicians – both his parents worked for Sichuan Chongqing Steel – but owing to his talent studied at an arts school in Shenzhen and later in Hanover.

A young prodigy…

In 2003 Li’s recital of Liszt was named Best CD of the Year by the New York Times. He later signed a recording contract with EMI with the goal of recording the full solo works for piano by Chopin. However, Li frequently lost out in comparisons to fellow Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang. Much less expressive than his compatriot, Li lost ground to Lang’s showmanship, which also saw Lang chosen to play at Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Why is Li in the news?

Questions about his commitment were widespread last week when he played a series of bum notes during a concert in Seoul. Afterwards Li was quick to apologise on his weibo: “I’m so sorry for my mistakes during the concert in Seoul yesterday, and I hereby express my apology to fans and friends! Thanks so much for the tolerance and support of the orchestra and the conductor. As a pianist I know that for whatever reason I must deliver a 100% performance on the stage, so any explanation is pale.”

Li’s management team added a further apology noting that he didn’t want to pass the buck but that the errors in his performance were due to “fatigue from travel”.

Critics had other explanations, however, including that Li has been spending too much time with his celebrity pals and that by appearing too often on TV entertainment shows his piano practice must have been suffering.

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