12 Bruce LiuWaves
Bruce Liu
Deutsche Grammophon (deutschegrammophon.com/en/artists/bruce-liu)

Warsaw – October 2021. Final round of the 18th International Chopin Competition. Finalist Bruce Liu totally relaxed, full of youthful exuberance and joy, performs Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor. I watched this performance and was totally enchanted. It was amazing. As soon as it ended the conductor threw his arms into the air, and almost in tears embraced and kissed Liu warmly and the applause was deafening. He was a clear winner. Liu, Chinese-Canadian, from Montreal is another one of the expanding list of Canadian pianists acquiring world fame.

This is his first recording and a quite unusual one; three French composers representing three consecutive centuries. Rameau’s work is for the harpsicord, so Liu had to study an instrument without dynamics that has a certain dry, bouncy, plucking sound. The Rameau program features a Gavotte with 6 variations of ever increasing difficulty. The pianist was having fun especially with La Poule, later orchestrated by Saint-Saëns and included in his Carnival of the Animals.

Liu explains the album title Waves alluding to the sea that “always changes” refers to his approach to his pianism being fluid, flexible and always open to new ideas. The sea, however, soon manifests itself with Ravel’s Une barque sur l’ocean, a long impressionistic piece where we feel the sea in turmoil, waves splashing, throwing the little boat around. Liu is in his element here and also in Alborada del grazioso, his pièce de resistance, played with lots of charm and gaiety.

The third composer chosen by Liu is Charles-Valentin Alkan, an almost completely neglected Parisian composer/pianist who was a contemporary of Chopin and Liszt. He was a great virtuoso who could compose and play études (studies) that are 20-minutes long! As the final piece of the program Liu plays Alkan’s enormously difficult 12 Etudes in All the Minor Keys, Op.39, for the 12 notes of the chromatic scale, containing 25 variations on a simple theme. An exceptional pianistic achievement.

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