Chopin Competition winner Bruce Liu's debut disc

Bruce Liu is already a major interpreter of Chopin's music; his future is surely bright, A magnificent disc

Chopin Competition winner Bruce Liu's debut disc

There is no doubt in my mind that Bruce Liu is a worthy winner of the Chopin Competition. The most recent victor, his playing is way beyond his years, the greasp of Chopin's music total, his tone golden, his legato in the slower poeces or movements absolutely of that Bellini-operatic mould that is so core to Chopin's world.

My article about Liu will appear as a "One to Watch" in International Piano's January/February2022  issue, published at the end of December 2021; I interviewed hims shostrly after his victory, when he was quarantining in a hotel in Japan (it was via zoom, with myself in London- that's quite some social distancing!).  Here, from DG, we have a seection of his performances in the Chopin Competition itself; every one of his performances in that competition is available on YouTube. First, a little background:

Born on 8 May 1997 in Paris, Bruce Liu graduated from the Montréal Conservatoire under Richard Raymond and is currently a student of Dang Thai Son. He has already performed with major ensembles including the Cleveland Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony and Orchestra of the Americas, and has toured with the China NCPA Orchestra in North America. Recent seasons have brought two successive tours of China with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra, and a concert with the Orchestre Lamoureux at Paris’s Salle Gaveau. He has won prizes at international piano competitions in Sendai, Montreal, Tel Aviv and Viseu.

Bruce Liu, photo © Wojciech Grzędziński

This disc marks a renewed collaboration between Deutsche Grammophon and the Fryderyk Chopin Institute.

“We’re delighted to partner with the Chopin Institute once again and to celebrate one of the classical world’s rising stars,” comments Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “Music-lovers around the world have been captivated by each stage of this year’s International Chopin Piano Competition. I know that everyone will join us in congratulating Bruce Liu for his revelatory interpretations during the last few weeks. The powerful emotions and extraordinary beauty of Chopin’s art speak deeply to young musicians, which is why we believe it is so important to share these recordings from the Chopin Competition.”

Dr Artur Szklener, Director of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, points to the enthusiastic virtual following for the Competition’s multimedia presentations of every performance. “We see this recording, forged in the white heat of competition, as an integral part of our mission to increase the worldwide audience for Chopin’s music. The intensity, focus and passion of Bruce Liu’s  performances at this year’s Competition mark him out as a very special talent.”

We previously saw the interaction between DG and the Chopin Competition in the 2015 recordings by South Korean winner Seong-Jin Cho, who subsequently gained a contract with them (you can see Classical Explorer's post on Cho's Chopin here).

One only has to look at the list of previous winners to see in whose  illustrious shoes Liu is walking: Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman, Rafał Blechacz andof course  Seong-Jin Cho.

We need to hear some of Liu's playing now, so here's the wonderful Andante spianato from the Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise, the perfect exemplar of that golden, singing line. Liu, like all comeptitors, was given a choince of make piano for the competition and he opted for a Fazioli, not particularly because of the company, he told me,  but because of this particular piano's charactertistics:

It's not just in the cantabile music that Liu excles, though. He has a massive technique that enables him to bring insight to the trickiest of pieces. Listen to his performance of the Eude in C sharp minor, Op. 10/4, in particular to the final bars, and what insights he brings to the part-writing there:

It's telling, too, that Liu is equally impressive in one of Chopin's most profound pieces as he is in the composer's lighter side. Chopin's Fourth Scherzo (E major) has defeated many an interpreter. Richter (HMV/Melodiya) remains the reference here but Liu is a strong contender for the throne. There is magic here that cuts through to the soul:

... and here, in contrast,is Liu in the sparkling salon music of the La ci darem Variations:

This is far more than a momento of one of the most important piano competitions in the World today; it marks the beginning of Liu's piano odyssey. in the glare of the public eye.  And as we start to consider, in the light of this disc, just what Liu might go on to achieve, here's a final nod to the copmetition in his phenomenal finals performance of the Chopin First PIano Concerto in E minor, Op. 11, over 40 minutes worth of music. One can feel the frisson of the excitement of a finale. The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Andrzej Boreyko:

Chopin: PIano Concerto No. 1 (complete)
Photo © Darek Golik

Bruce Liu is already a major interpreter of Chopin's music; his future is surely bright, A magnificent disc, far more than a souvenir of a competition.