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Yundi Li is among the most acclaimed and popular Classical pianists of his generation, ranked behind only Lang Lang as the best-known pianist to have emerged from China. In time, however, he may well surpass his compatriot as the leading Chinese pianist of the 21st century. Li rose to instant stardom with his victory at the 2000 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. At 18 he was the youngest pianist ever to capture first prize there, and he has since won over an ever-growing and devoted following in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, both from his numerous acclaimed concerts and high-profile, award-winning recordings. Li was initially associated with the works of Chopin and Liszt, the two composers who dominated his first recordings and often appeared on his concert programs. But Li's repertory is fairly extensive now, taking in works by Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Schumann, Prokofiev, and Ravel. His performance style is broad, almost chameleonic, sounding plush and Romantic and fiery for Chopin and Liszt, but turning grittier and darker for works like the Prokofiev Second Concerto and playful and bouncy for the Ravel G major. Li has recorded exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon.
Yundi Li (or, as the Chinese order his names, Li Yundi) was born on October 7, 1982. At age four he was playing the accordion and by seven was taking piano lessons. His progress was astonishing: in 1995 he won the U.S.-based Stravinsky International Youth Competition. Successes in other competitions followed in the next few years, with a third-place finish in the Liszt International and a first prize at the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition.
After his Chopin Competition victory in 2000, Li was suddenly in demand. His first recording, an all-Chopin disc on DG, was released in 2002. In 2003 Li made his Carnegie Hall debut to great acclaim, and that same year DG released his second album, an all-Liszt CD, which The New York Times named Best CD of the Year.
In 2006 Li relocated to Hong Kong, where he has since lived. His 2007 DG CD of the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 and the Ravel G major, with Seiji Ozawa and the Berlin Philharmonic, became a bestseller, making the Classical Billboard chart. The album was cited once more by The New York Times, in this instance as one of the best classical CDs of the year.
Li's other efforts include The Real Great Composers: The Real Purcell (2008) and Liszt: Wild and Crazy (2011).