Bruce Liu takes London by storm

It had been Jed Distler the distinguished American critic who had suddenly pricked up his ears as he covered the entire Chopin Competition for the ‘Gramophone’ magazine.He sent me a message asking me to listen to a young Chinese Canadian pianist who had played the early Rondo op 2 with the scintillating subtlety of another age.(In fact Bruce said that his teacher Dang Thai Song had told him that he played old style.He had replied that he must play as he feels).Suddenly all eyes were on Bruce where the hot favourite had been the recent winner of both the Hamamatsu and Australian International Competitions.Now the spotlight was on him and has remained firmly there long after his unexpected triumph in Warsaw.It is enough to say that the recital he gave on the 1st March for Chopin’s 212th birthday sold out in four minutes and a second concert had to be arranged the day after!This is what I wrote on listening to the live stream from Warsaw on that occasion:

Janina Fialkowska became the protégé of Artur Rubinstein when he had heard her in the very first competition in his name in Israel.Now it was Janina who had heard Bruce in the Rubinstein competition years later and invited him to her home in Bavaria to encourage and help him.She had noticed his great talent and knew that with the right encouragement the world would be quick to follow.How right she was!

Bruce Xiaoyu Liu glad to have Janina’s wonderful book after his magnificent performance of Tchaikovsky 2 in London tonight.

An unexpected indisposition of the blind pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii gave London the chance to hear Bruce not in the First Concerto by Tchaikowsky as planned but in the much lesser known Second.A work almost as long as Brahms Second concerto sharing with it the chamber music quality of the slow movement.It is by a strange coincidence that the cancellation by Shura Cherkassky many years previously with this concerto had launched the career of Nelson Freire who had stood in at a week’s notice and became famous over night!

And so it was with Bruce tonight with a scintillating performance in which his crystalline sound wove in and out in a continual musicianly interplay with the superb players of the Philharmonia.The slow movement,in particular,is like a concerto for trio and orchestra in which Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay and Karen Stephenson were his sensitive accomplices.There was grandeur too of course in the first movement and with a technical prowess that was at times breathtaking in its audacity and sweep.The last movement sprang out of the sumptuous slow movement with like an unwinding spring such scintillating playing of energy and style.It was the subtle colour and shape though that he gave to all that he played that was so remarkable.A sound that although not with the same weight as Gilels or Arrau had the clarity and rhythmic drive of a Serkin.I remember that when Jorge Bolet died Horowitz told Cherkassky that they were the only ones left from the Golden Age of Piano Playing.I think they can rest in peace now with the arrival of this young man,a true star, who has joined their ranks with their same subtle personality and jewel like colours that are made to sparkle with such a beguiling sense of rhythmic urgency.It is hardly surprising that he received an ovation not only from the audience but also from his colleagues on stage.An encore of a transcription from Tchaikowsky’s Swan Lake was played with even more subtlety than Earl Wild who had written it for himself to play!

The Philharmonia conducted by Santtu and the entire audience were on their feet at the beginning for the Ukrainian national
Anthem before their all Tchaikovsky programme.

Bruce was persuaded to played an encore.A transcription by Earl Wild -Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake Dance of the four swans …….a sublime performance of glittering playing,old style worthy of the legendary pianists of the Golden age .
A star has truly arrived and is shining brightly

Flowers from Yisha Xue with Bruce’s mother flown in especially from her home in Paris
Lunch in Yisha’s club : ‘National Liberal’ in a pre rehearsal lunch to meet Bruce the day before his triumphant arrival on the concert scene in London’s Royal Festival Hall
Bruce Liu with Santtu-Matias Rovelli ,Principal conductor of the Philharmonia
After concerto discussion and enjoyment in the interval before returning to conduct a gloriously original performance of Tchaikowsky’s 6th Symphony,Pathétique.

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