Yundi inaugurates his European tour and the release of his Emperor / Fantasy album on February 25, 2014 with a recital at London's Royal Festival Hall. Those attending Yundi's recital in the British capital will be able to purchase Emperor / Fantasy and have it signed by the pianist as part of an exclusive pre-release of the album. Emperor / Fantasy arrives internationally on March 10.
Pre-order the album here.
Purchase tickets to the Royal Festival Hall recital.
In anticipation of his Royal Festival Hall recital, Yundi spoke with the International Piano Series about his recital program and life as a concert pianist.
What is special about Beethoven and Schumann’s music for you?
“The combination on my new CD - Beethoven Concerto No.5 with Schumann Fantasie - is certainly a bit unusual. Of Beethoven’s piano concertos, the Fifth is indeed the grandest. Technique aside, this concerto also calls for a lively imagination. Actually, Schumann’s Fantasie is in the same vein - that is why I am attracted to these works.”
Do you prefer playing solo recitals or concertos?
“I love to play concertos but it’s not always easy to achieve agreement on music with conductors and orchestras. Sometimes you have to make compromise. That’s why I play solo recitals more often. But I’m also looking forward to more concerto performances this year.”
How do you find enough time in your schedule to learn as many new pieces as you would like to, in order to maintain an evolving, interesting and challenging repertoire?
“There’s a Chinese saying which goes: “Time is like water in sponge; you can always get some more if you squeeze harder.” Last year in China, I gave concerts in more than 30 cities within just 80 days. I could only practise new repertoire after concerts. I waited till all the audience had left and then sneaked back to the stage. Many thanks to those generous theatres for not driving me out.”
What is your favourite venue to perform at, and why?
“Lots! The Musikverein (Vienna), Berlin Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall (New York), Suntory Hall (Tokyo)... They have good acoustics.”
What is your favourite piece, and why?
“Ah...that’s hard to say. I’ve played many Chopin works and I see him as a most intimate friend. His music is full of poetic imagination. In Beethoven's piano works I see the beauty of structure, in Schumann I find the ultimate romance. I am fascinated by them all.”
What is the most difficult piece in your repertoire (and is there anything you cannot or will not play)?
“Most difficult...might be Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2, which I recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic and Seiji Ozawa in 2007. But frankly speaking, technique has never been the first concern to me. How to convey the composer’s emotion/thoughts is more important.”
Have you ever been tempted to walk out of a recital because the piano was too awful to play (or because the hall was too hot / cold / noisy)?
“I try to overcome these situations. For noisy audiences, I’ll wait until they get quiet. Adapting to different halls/audiences is a challenge to every concert pianist, and challenges are always fun for me!”
What is the best way to make sure people turn off their phones?
“A colleague told me that she once saw a sign in a concert hall in Hong Kong, saying “If your phone rings during the concert, you’ll be asked to sing Nessun dorma on stage as an encore”. That’s creative, and of course, effective.”
How do you cope with traveling a lot?
“That’s what a concert pianist does. Just try to get used to it and enjoy.”
How do you wind down after a concert?
“Take a long break and get some food! I get hungry after every concert because I don’t like having dinner before a performance.”