Yundi Li: ‘I Think I’m Not a Normal Artist’
As the son of a steel worker in provincial Chongqing, Yundi Li was born into a world permeated by Chinese folk music and pop, but at the age of three, he was suddenly entranced by the sound of an accordion. His parents bought him one, and two years later he won a competition with it. Then he chanced to hear someone practising the piano. “I had never heard a piano before,” he says. “And this sound, with its rich range of colour, was instantly very special for me. I hung outside the window for half an hour, drinking it in.”
His words tumble out quickly and eagerly, with self-deprecating charm. The contrast with Lang Lang – for whom an interview is a tiresome formality prior to the more serious business of a photo-shoot – could not be greater.
Had he been raised in Britain, Lang Lang would have been put on the abused-child register for the way his raveningly ambitious father treated him – throwing his toys out of the window when he was five, and at one point ordering him to jump to his death from a balcony when he’d been rejected by a teacher. Yundi Li’s parents, on the other hand, were devotedly supportive: his mother gave up her job to look after him while he studied at the Sichuan conservatory, but she and his father seem to have put him under no pressure: “They just tell me to enjoy my life.” He stayed from eight to 18 with the same teacher, Professor Dan Zhaoyi, during which time he won a string of competitions, including the Stravinsky Youth Competition when he was 13, the Utrecht Liszt competition at 17, and the Warsaw one the following year.
Video: Yundi Li perform’s Chopin’s Nocturne No2
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