In April 2013, Lionel and I visited Piano Salon Christophori in Berlin. Situated in an industrial area of the city, the building looked like a warehouse from the outside. We had no idea what to expect. Inside, what seemed to be a factory was also the concert room; crowded with pianos, many of them being restored, and in between those pianos, chairs for the audience. The performer that evening was Li-Chun Su – we had never heard of her until then. I still remember the programme: Liszt’s Sonata; Beethoven’s final Sonata No 32; and Bach-Busoni’s Chaconne. She took these grand pieces completely under her control and performed with ease. It was a fascinating evening.
Fast forward two years and Li-Chun was at Breinton last Saturday, performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Her performance of the Variations was, to me, an art of expression and articulation. It was like a fountain of musical wealth, ideas and inner feelings pouring out. This is not to say she left out the mechanical and mathematical elements of the Bach’s work. Far from it. It certainly was a memorable performance which was characterised by Li-Chun’s own interpretation and meticulous, no-fault playing. How beautiful was the Aria, so contemplative, so pure. Then straight into the springy and dynamic first variation, from then on continued a spiritual journey. Each variation was cared into minute details and had a punch line which stimulated the audience’s interest. Each variation ended thoughtfully and the transition to the next made us look forward to what was to come. Li-Chun’s pursuit of sound brought out such clarity and sensitivity, making every note and voice heard and appreciated. When the heavenly and heart touching Aria returned, the 45-minute journey came to a peaceful end. The atmosphere was warm, bringing everyone gently back to the real world.
The second half was Breinton’s first ever experiment in “Audience Choice”. Our members were given a voting sheet that offered eight choices out of which everyone selected three. The result was complied during the interval and Li-Chun performed the three highest polling choices - works by Handel, Chopin and Debussy. I had never heard a more exciting Handel than this. Bouncy and dancing, The Harmonious Blacksmith was so much fun. I particularly liked Chaconne in G. The starting chords were dynamic and dignifying, trills tickling and playful, this short piece brought out so many textures of sounds, mood changes and stories to tell.
Li-Chun followed by performing Chopin’s three Nocturnes from Op 9, with spiralling emotions. Debussy’s explosive Feux dÁrtifice was amazing with a completely different texture, followed by Claire de Lune, which was utterly beautiful. How could this overly performed (often badly performed too) piece sound so different and fresh? There was something magnetic about Li-Chun’s performance. I’m sure it was hard-earned by training and practicing, but some of it must be very natural - something which cannot be simply put aside as ‘character’ or ‘personality’, more like who she is.
In addition to performing, Li-Chun entertained us with informative and interesting information on each piece. One member described the evening as ‘priceless’. Indeed it was.
During her stay in the UK, she performed in six other concerts at various venues. I sat and listened to all of them. I never got bored; every time there was something fresh, something I hadn’t heard in previous occasions. She has this blessed talent to understand the instrument and audience instinctively and adopt her playing to the environment she is in. Whether it was performing to hundreds of listeners at St Martin-in-the-Field or at Breinton with an audience of 50, her music was enthusiastically received.