The first Sunday of September is going to be a culmination of musical epics in a single venue. Because award-winning Singaporean pianist, Li Churen, will be taking centre stage with Austrian choir, Chorus Sine Nomine, in a one-night-only concert. The event, titled Brief Encounters: A Musical Affair, will see the 22-year-old opening the night as a soloist.
Li, who has been playing the piano since she was five, has been taking the music world by storm. Her list of accolades include first prize at the International Young Talents Piano Competition of Barlassina, the International Piano Competition “Petro Argento” and PianoTalents Milano and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concerto Competition, all in 2014. She’s also since received numerous grants the likes of the Tan Kah Kee Postgraduate Scholarship in 2015 and the National Arts Council Arts Scholarship in 2011-2015. In 2015, the young lady was also appointed a Yamaha and Bösendorfer Artist.
With so many awards on her plate, Li has since been invited to perform at concert series around the globe, including the US, Denmark, Italy, Wales, Ireland, England, South Korea, Indonesia and of course, Singapore. Prior to her upcoming concert, which will be held at the Esplanade Concert Hall, we catch up with Li to find out more about her love for music, playing the piano and the upcoming concert.
1. Tell us more about Brief Encounters: A Musical Affair.
In my last year at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (NUS), I won the school’s piano competition where I played Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto. Because of that, I was invited to perform as the soloist in Brief Encounters: A Musical Affair. I’ll be playing Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto with the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra conducted by Chan Tze Law. This piece is the one of the greatest works in piano repertoire and arguably the most popular concerto ever written. Expect heart-wrenching outpourings of emotions and poignant sentimentality, as well as much technical bravura and exciting virtuosity.
2. How did you come to learn the piano?
My parents adore music. There was always music playing in the house and I fell in love with the sound of the piano. My parents finally caved in to my requests and so I began taking lessons when I was five. One of my first performances was of a piece I wrote for my mother when I was seven, titled “To Mother with Love.” I simply adored the euphoria of being onstage! To tell the truth, in hindsight, I might have been more excited about wearing a fancy dress and putting on make-up for the first time.
3. What do you love about playing the piano and performing in concerts?
I’m usually rather quiet and introverted but I feel at ease and free onstage. I think of myself as a window – it isn’t me being the music, but rather, I am discovering something and allowing the music to unfold and exist. That takes away the pressure and allows me to be free and expressive.
4. What is your favourite piece to play on the piano?
I love improvising. It feels so organic to play whatever comes to mind. Usually I play by ear whatever music I came across earlier that day and improvise upon that – it’s a great exercise to get comfortable at the instrument, warm up the muscles and start the creative juices flowing.
5. If you didn’t learn the piano, would you have wanted to learn another instrument instead? Why or why not?
I wouldn’t give up playing the piano for the world. It’s the only instrument that allows you to be a one-woman orchestra and the alpha female in me adores that. If I had to pick another instrument, it would be the violin — to me, there is something very intimate and seductive about that instrument.
Brief Encounters: A Musical Affair is happening on September 3, 2017 from 7:30pm-10pm at the Esplanade Concert Hall.