Christian Li – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96kHz | Time – 01:01:54 minutes | 1,11 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Decca Music Group Ltd.
Set for international stardom with the release of his debut album, Christian Li is an extraordinary talent. His remarkably mature musicianship and approach to interpretation, combined with his innate musical passion, have established a promising future for this inspirational young musician.
At only 13 years old, the Australian-Chinese violinist becomes the youngest violinist ever to professionally record Vivaldi’s thrilling chamber work The Four Seasons, included on his new album of the same name, released on Decca Classics on 20 August. Christian’s debut – for which he play-directs an ensemble featuring members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – marks the first recording of The Four Seasons on Decca in 17 years, following in the footsteps of label-mate Janine Jansen.
Born in Melbourne in 2007, Christian is an incredible role model for young people. He first picked up a violin at just five years old and came to international attention in 2018 when he became the youngest-ever winner of the Menuhin Competition, winning the joint Junior 1st Prize in Geneva, aged only ten – his performance of Vivaldi’s ‘Summer’ has since achieved 1.7 million views on YouTube.
It is a delicate task for the music lover to find the right attitude to adopt when faced with the arrival of a new child prodigy on the classical music scene. Intensive training, tough competition, media overexposure… this is the unhappy lot of young people who plan to make it as a performer. Perhaps one’s innocence is simply the price of musical excellence? The example of Christian Li seems to offer a rather reassuring answer, as the young violinist is managing to combine freshness and spontaneity with maturity in the studio and on the stage. Aged just fourteen, this Australian violinist of Chinese origin is already breaking all records: the youngest winner of the International Menuhin Competition, in 2020 he also became the youngest artist to sign a contract with Decca Records. For his first album on the prestigious UK label, Christian Li offers a generous programme based around Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, complemented with four violin-piano duets drawn from his personal repertoire.
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to these Four Seasons is an impression of a rare connection between the violin and the orchestra, testifying to Christian Li’s beautiful chamber music sensibility. The young performer has resisted the temptation to show off and ham it up: here, the violin fits fluidly and naturally into the overall discourse of the four concertos. This performance packs some pleasant surprises, such as a turn towards pi`u piano nuances in some passages which are normally played with more sonorous attacks. Christian Li proceeds with a softer discourse, the better to spring virtuoso sequences on us later, in which he deploys all his skill and flexibility. The Allegro non molto of Concerto No. 4 “L’Hiver” (track 10) is a perfect example of this artist’s flexibility: his playing moves from the dainty to the incisive, without the audience seeing the transition coming, and with unusually nimble changes of tempo. We are delighted to discover a format that puts collective intelligence above an exclusive focus on the soloist. So, credit where credit is due! Let us salute this young violinist’s irreproachable performance, and also the teamwork between him and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
On the last four tracks of the album, Christian Li shifts gears, and with the help of Timothy Young on piano, he shows us some new colours that he has added to his palette. Two short works pay an elegant tribute to his Chinese roots: the traditional Fisherman’s Harvest Song arranged by contemporary composer Zili Li, and Chinese tambourine by Fritz Kreisler.
In the former, we find the finesse, the almost liquid sweetness that had seduced us in The Four Seasons. Li takes on the lyricism of the score with a perfectly measured vibrato and rubato, taking on high velocity in the bouncier passages. In the latter, the playing is more biting, acerbic, even mocking. The album concludes with a Meditation by Tha”is that hits the mark perfectly, followed by Bazzini’s Ronde des lutins, which offers revitalising virtuosity and humour.
We are impressed by Christian Li’s musical maturity, by his agility to move from one register to another, from Baroque orchestral works to contemporary duets, by the flexibility of his playing, and by his intelligent reading of great canonical works. The young violinist should easily find a lasting place on the scene and will certainly be among the great performers of tomorrow. – Pierre Lamy
1. Christian Li – I. Allegro
2. Christian Li – II. Largo e pianissimo sempre
3. Christian Li – III. Allegro
4. Christian Li – I. Allegro non molto
5. Christian Li – II. Adagio – Presto
6. Christian Li – III. Presto
7. Christian Li – I. Allegro
8. Christian Li – II. Adagio
9. Christian Li – III. Allegro
10. Christian Li – I. Allegro non molto
11. Christian Li – II. Largo
12. Christian Li – III. Allegro
13. Christian Li – Fisherman’s Harvest Song
14. Christian Li – Tambourin Chinois, Op. 3
15. Christian Li – M’editation (Arr. R. Nichols for Violin and Piano)
16. Christian Li – La ronde des Lutins