Yundi, the Chinese dazzling pianist acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal for his ‘poetic depth and patrician elegance,' continues his award-winning exploration of the works of Chopin with Chopin Ballades, released on Mercury Classics / Deutsche Grammophon/ Universal Music Classics on February 26, 2016. He also embarks on a major international tour this Spring and will perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles on February 21st and at Carnegie Hall in New York on March 23rd.
For his new all-Chopin recording, Yundi performs the Opus 17 set of four Mazurkas, the Berceuse (Op 57), and all four Ballades. The latter works were composed between 1831 and 1842, and contain some of the composer's most operatic writing, as well as his most challenging technical demands.
Yundi's Chopin tour, which begins on February 21 and runs until April 23, includes the cities of London, Vienna, Rome, Munich, Berlin, Prague and Hamburg in its 17-date programme. The pianist will be performing the four Ballades (which are also included on his new disc), and the complete Preludes. He recorded the latter works on his most recent disc, which gained dazzling plaudits. ‘Vividly contrasted... an exhilarating sweep' said Gramophone; ‘A glittering, dextrous touch' (Sinfinimusic.com).
Uniquely among classical artists, Yundi's popularity is comparable to that of a major rock star in his native land, and his followers regularly travel abroad to mob his concerts. He has played to an audience of one billion on Chinese television, and his Weibo (Chinese Twitter) account has over 18 million followers. His level of market reach is such that he was also invited to perform with Taylor Swift in a recent high-level advertising campaign for Toyota. In addition he is an ‘Image Ambassador' for Super Boys, China's answer to Pop Idol.
With his forensic, lyrical poeticism underpinned by a phenomenal technique, Yundi has become one of the most admired performers of Chopin in recent years. In 2000, he was he the first Chinese performer ever to win the prestigious Chopin Competition. He was also (at eighteen) the youngest winner in the history of the event, and the first player in fifteen years to be granted first prize. In 2015 Yundi accepted the great honour of returning to the competition in the capacity of an adjudicator (becoming the youngest judge in the competition's history) alongside other luminaries of the keyboard world including Martha Argerich, Dmitri Alexeev and Garrick Ohlsson. In recognition of his particular affinity with Poland's national composer, Yundi was presented with a Gold Medal for Merit to Culture by the Polish government in 2010.
Yundi was born in Chongqing, in the province of Sichuan, in 1982. After winning several prizes as a child for his accordion playing, he switched to the piano at seven, and subsequently trained at the Shenzhen Arts School. He later studied with the acclaimed Israeli pianist Arie Vardi at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover.
Last year Yundi had 11 albums in the Chinese Classical Top 15 chart, and his latest Chinese tour of 35 cities sold out in 12 minutes.