Pianist Siqian Li plays Chopin’s Sonata in B-flat minor and a thrilling new arrangement of Ravel’s Valse

On a blistering hot afternoon in July, pianist, Siqian Li, delivered a spectacular performance of romantic repertoire at St James’s Church, Piccadilly. Chopin’s Sonata No.2, comprising the famous Funeral March, and a new arrangement of Ravel’s Valse, topped the virtuosic bill. Li drew quite a crowd*, even in the heat. 

Karine Hetherington of ArtMuseLondon went to see her, post-concert.

Congratulations on your performance. Chopin’s Second Sonata and Ravel’s Valse – are not the easiest to play…

Thank you. Yes – but I feel personally drawn to these pieces. They work well together. Chopin’s second sonata is about life and death, La Valse is like a romantic waltz in war time, with a destructive ending. The whole programme takes you on a complete emotional journey. 

La Valse was extraordinary. I have never heard anything quite like it before…

Yes (she smiles) the version of La Valse I played was transcribed by my teacher, Georgian pianist Alexander Korsantia, at the New England Conservatory Boston. He wanted to make the radiance, vividness and grandezza of the original orchestral version of La Valse performable on a solo piano. Before this version was published by Sikorski, I worked together with Korsantia and read the final proofs of the score. It was a very challenging but memorable experience of learning this piece.

What do you like about performing this type of repertoire? 

Performing this repertoire is very emotional and challenging, and very fulfilling. I also feel I can connect with the audience with it – this sort of music makes them reflect on their lives. I believe that is was music does. 

Do you get nervous before performing such difficult repertoire? 

Always! No matter how many times I perform it. But it is more a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

Are there other composers you would like to explore? 

I’d like to spend more time with Brahms and Messiaen. I don’t want to limit myself to certain styles or composers at this current stage.

How important and relevant do you think composers like Chopin and Ravel are today, to our lives?

No matter how rapidly the outer world changes, the emotions that human beings have and the way we deal with our emotions from inside, has never really changed. We experience the same happiness, love, struggles, sadness that Chopin and Ravel experienced hundreds of years ago. So, I believe their music will never lose its value.

PS. St James’s Church are continuing to socially-distance the audience meanwhile.

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