Saturday, March 13, 2021, 8:00 pm
at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


George Li pianist
A bracing, fearless account… Mr. Li’s playing combined youthful abandon with utter command. - The New York Times






Ludwig van Beethoven
Andante Favori in F Major, WoO 57

Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato
Arietta: Adagio molto semplice e cantabile

~ Intermission ~

Franz Liszt
Piano Sonata in B minor, S.178  

“George Li appears courtesy of Warner Classics”
Listen to George Li’s album Tchaikovsky, Liszt

Mr. Sherman’s legacy goes beyond his being a pianist, a legendary one at that. In fact, his pianism is only a microcosm of who he is - one gets the feeling when going to his concert that we aren’t just listening to music, but rather to Mr. Sherman’s mind and musical being. He beguiles and leads us into his world, and for 2 hours we are captivated and spellbound by the music that emits from his fingertips and spirit. Each time he plays, he achieves the impossible: he is able to convey such awe inspiring individualism while also paying deep respect and meticulous detail to the composer and the corresponding score. This is combined with a complete mastery of the keyboard to the point where playing transcends the piano, and where one is taken to a sheer musical paradise. I remember years ago when I was a carefree teenager, when Ms. Byun told me to voice an 8 note chord so that each voice had a character of their own, and thus make it 3 dimensional. I immediately balked at such a task, believing it to be impossible. The next week, I went to Mr. Sherman’s recital in Jordan Hall, and was taught firsthand what a 3 dimensional chord sounded like - the playing penetrates beyond the surface of the piano and the listener’s ear, and rather transmits throughout the entire body, and one is simply left awestruck at how a simple bass chord can sound like 8 different voices singing in harmony.

But Mr. Sherman is also an equally inspiring teacher. He somehow achieves the balance between an unwavering supreme standard for pianism and musicianship, while also encouraging individual artistic freedom - there isn’t one without the other. Again, his overwhelmingly strong spirit paves the path for this, as his convictions and philosophies about life, art and music guides and pushes us beyond our own limitations. He passionately sings for us, utters phrases of indescribable imagery, to help inspire us to understand the musical language and character of a given piece. We are shown the beauties of the Garden of Eden, and he is our guide who teaches us how to appreciate the sublime - and for that we are eternally grateful.

The program I have chosen features late masterworks by Beethoven and Liszt, two composers which are synonymous with the artistry of Mr. Sherman. Of course, he is the first American pianist to record the complete Beethoven sonatas and concerti, but his playing goes much further beyond that Herculean achievement. He is one of the few pianists I know that truly achieves the fine balance between character and intellect, between “white heat” and “cold blood,” while also having such firm and utterly convincing convictions about whatever piece of music he touches. I realize the enormous and the sheer impossibility of my task tonight, but can only do my best and will attempt to do the same. 

- George Li

Free admission, donation appreciated.
Face mask and social distancing mandated.
Children under 6 not admitted.

Reservation required

Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts


Quotes from Victor Khatutsky of The Boston Musical Intelligencer:
“... the transmitted atmosphere nearly evoked the spirit of a real concert.
“... The Beethoven started with perfectly pleasant Andante Favori before proceeding to the enormous and valedictory opus 111. Li’s interpretation of that final sonata came across as heartfelt and powerful, with a tortured and fully gripping Maestoso. His command of colors sparkled in the Arietta, which flowed with natural ease and full concentration in every turn.
“…. a brilliant pianist’s tribute to his teacher and inspiration.”


photos: Chi-Wei Lo, Xiaopei Xu
"It was our great pleasure to present George Li - Concert Pianist at Gardner Museum’s very limited capacity Calderwood Hall tonight. George Li was a musical conjurer: strings of gorgeous baroque pearls; Dutch windmills on a summer day; the wrath of Neptune; the lamenting widow...... were some of the things that manifested through George’s playing. It was hard to believe the sheer amount of vivid images that came out of the same 88 keys. The night became even more memorable when George dedicated his encores to his teachers- the first to Mr. Russell Sherman and Ms. Wha Kyung Byun, and the second to the late Mrs. Dorothy Yang Shi."

George Li appears courtesy of Warner Classics   more Tchaikovsky, Liszt on George Li’s album
Last Saturday, I had the privilege of playing a live concert in Boston, presented by Cathy Chan at the Gardner Museum to celebrate Mr. Sherman’s 90th Birthday. Mr. Sherman has always been one of my musical heroes, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had quite a few lessons with him, so of course this meant the world to me. Even though it was limited to 10 people due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was a very intimate evening, and I’m so grateful to Dr. Chan for making this possible. In the end, I dedicated my encores to all my teachers for helping me develop into the pianist and person I am today - Schumann/Liszt’s Widmung to Mr. Sherman and Ms. Byun (whom I studied with since the age of 12), and Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor, op. Posthumous to the late Mrs. Shi. Hope you all enjoy - this concert will be available on YouTube until April 22nd!!   -George Li

George Li

A bracing, fearless account…Mr. Li’s playing combined youthful abandon with utter command. - The New York Times

Praised by the Washington Post for combining “staggering technical prowess, a sense of command and depth of expression,” pianist George Li possesses an effortless grace, brilliant virtuosity and poised authority far beyond his years. Since winning the Silver Medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition, Li has rapidly established a major international reputation and performs regularly with some of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors such as Gergiev, Dudamel, Honeck, Petrenko, Tilson Thomas and Long Yu.

Recent and upcoming concerto highlights include performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lyon, Sydney Symphony and St Petersburg Philharmonic. In 2018/19, Li makes his debut with the London Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Tokyo Symphony and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, embarks on a 11-city recital tour of China and is the soloist on the Russian National Orchestra’s major US tour with Mikhail Pletnev. He frequently appears with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, including performances at the Paris Philharmonie, Luxembourg Philharmonie, New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music, Graffenegg Festival and in various venues throughout Russia.

In recital, Li performs at venues including Carnegie Hall, Davies Hall in San Francisco, the Mariinsky Theatre, Munich’s Gasteig, the Louvre, Seoul Arts Center, Tokyo’s Asahi Hall and Musashino Hall, NCPA Beijing, Shanghai Poly Theater and Amici della Musica Firenze, as well as appearances at major festivals including the Edinburgh International Festival, Ravinia Festival, Festival de Pâques in Aix-en-Provence Festival, and Montreux Festival.

An active chamber musician, Li has performed alongside James Ehnes, Noah Bendix-Balgley, Benjamin Beilman, Kian Soltani, Pablo Ferrandez and Daniel Lozakovich and future plans include collaborations with Daniel Hope, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Lawrence Power. Li is an exclusive Warner Classics recording artist, with his debut recital album released in October 2017 which was recorded live from the Mariinsky.

Li gave his first public performance at Boston’s Steinway Hall at the age of ten and in 2011, performed for President Obama at the White House in an evening honoring Chancellor Angela Merkel. Among Li’s many prizes, he was the recipient of the 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant, a recipient of the 2012 Gilmore Young Artist Award, and the First Prize winner of the 2010 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. In summer 2018, Li graduated from the Harvard University / New England Conservatory joint program, where he studied with Wha Kyung Byun. He is currently a candidate in New England Conservatory's prestigious and highly-selective Artist Diploma program.

音樂會後新聞稿 – George Li March 13, 2021
中華表演藝術基金會在伊莎貝拉博物館 (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) 安排的幾場音樂會,因疫情的影響,一再延期。3月13日星期六,終於在各種限制下成功的舉辦由 2015年在柴可夫斯基大賽贏得銀獎的George Li 舉辦一場鋼琴獨奏會。同時,慶祝鋼琴大師羅梭舒曼Russel Sherman的九秩晉一華誕。本次音樂會原訂於去年12月,後因美術館關閉,延至一月中,又延到三月,在四層樓300人大廳中,限制只能10人在現場。雖然人數極少,但演出者能有觀眾親自在現場聆聽,雙方的感受和欣賞之情溢於言表。
當晚的曲目包括貝多芬臨終前最後一首第32號奏鳴曲,Op. 111號作品,一代樂聖告別世界,心中的無奈不捨盡在曲中。另有李斯特不朽鉅作B小調奏鳴曲。最後,George Li 並演出兩首安可曲,第一首舒曼的作品奉獻 (Widmung - Dedication),獻給羅梭舒曼老師及其夫人Wha Kyung Byun ,第二首蕭邦夜曲獻給二月份因癌症突然去世的楊鏡圳老師 (Dorothy Yang Shi)。楊老師是George Li 的啟蒙老師,給他奠立下穩固的基礎。她的突然離去,令人難以接受。楊老師多年來培養出很多傑出鋼琴家,除George Li 外還有Eric Lu 等等,現在都是世界樂壇重要的鋼琴家。 George Li 真情流露,演出感人至深。
George Li 獲獎無數,除2015年贏得柴可夫斯基大賽銀獎之外,也得到2016年艾利·費舍爾職業獎 (Avery Fisher Career Award),2012年吉爾莫爾青年藝術家獎 (Gilmore Young Artist Award) 等等大獎。在世界各地與著名指揮及樂團合作,佳評如潮。他已由哈佛和紐英倫音樂學院聯合學位畢業,得到哈佛的學士及紐英倫音樂學院的碩士學位。他現在繼續攻讀紐英倫音樂學院的最高學位,非常難進入的藝術家文憑學位(Artist Diploma),繼續和Wha Kyung Byun老師學習。
George Li 當晚整場演出的的錄影,已放在中華表演藝術基金會的YouTube 上。 因為世界最大的古典音樂唱片公司華納Warner Classics已和他簽約,作為全球唱片總代理。這次音樂會能被允許錄影,並放在YouTube上,實在不容易。經過多次協商,才得到允許,免費欣賞。但只可到4月22號為止。有興趣者,請儘早觀看。
波士頓音樂雜誌 Boston Musical Intelligencer 的樂評 Victor Khatutsky (前莫斯科Kommersaut 日報樂評,)在看了錄像後說,"雖然是錄像,但演出的氣氛幾乎有實體音樂會的精神。可能與十名幸運者在場有關。他把貝多芬生前最後一首鉅作,Op. 111 號作品,那種告別生命的無奈,真情的表現出。充滿不同的色調,強有震撼力,關注到每一個細節。他是卓越傑出的鋼琴家,向教導他的老師們敬禮。"



By Dr. Jannie Burdeti

Ludwig van Beethoven: Andante favori in F Major, WoO 57

Beethoven’s “Andante favori,” composed between 1803 and 1804, was the castaway slow movement from his Waldstein Sonata, Op. 53. According to Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817–97), the first biographer of Beethoven, a friend of the composer had suggested that he replace the second movement due to its length. Scholars have also suggested that the change was a result of Beethoven’s consideration for proportions and the imbalance of having two back-to-back rondos.. In 1805, the work was published as “No. 35,” and two years later reissued as “Andante favori.” Musicologist Robert Nosow writes that this numbering system that Beethoven used was an attempt to distinguish works that were “popular” and aimed to please the growing middle-class amateur, as opposed to those he labeled as “opuses” and “great” enough for posterity. Other works included in the separately numbered catalogue were variations on opera arias and other famous tunes of the day. The second publication of the work, then titled “Andante Favori,” meaning “Favorite Andante,” was renamed as such because it had become such an overwhelming success and was frequently programmed in Beethoven’s performances. Years later, he regretted its popularity: “I wish I had never written the piece. I cannot walk down a street [in Vienna] without hearing it coming through some window or other.”

In this delightful concert piece, we encounter a lesser-known side of the composer, one that is wistful, thoughtful, and lyrical. It begins with an easygoing theme in F major, looking ahead to the opening of his Sonata in F major, Op. 54, the piece that followed his Waldstein Sonata. Soon after, it trails off into the distant key of D-flat major, where one hears in the right hand of the piano the “horn motif,” which Beethoven would later reuse, most famously in the opening of his Les adieux Sonata, Op. 81a. Each reappearance of the opening theme is a variation of the initial statement. William Kinderman writes that the subsequent section in B-flat major, replete with octaves and figurations, is a “delicious mocking parody of Italian operatic style.” As the work comes to an end, the hands go to the farthest ends of the keyboard. This serves as a gentle close.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111

Jan Swafford, in his biography of Beethoven, recounts the near-mythic scene of Beethoven on his deathbed: “At 5:45, lightning lit up the chamber and there was a terrific clap of thunder. Suddenly Beethoven jerked into life, opened his eyes, raised his clenched fist into the air as if in defiance of it all, the whole mess of fate, the fickle gods, the worthless Viennese and corrupt aristocracy, the whole damned comedy.” According to Swafford, this account was handed down to posterity by the composer Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who was present at the scene. While Beethoven’s brother, who was also present, offered a different narrative, Hüttenbrenner’s was so compelling that this story has been the one handed down from generation to generation.

The image of Beethoven on his deathbed with clenched fists lifted towards the skies is a fitting one for the opening of his Sonata, Op. 111. The piece opens arrestingly in his archetypal key of C minor, with an impersonal force of nature like that of a thunderclap and lightning, answered by an upward, defiant sweep. The exposition of the sonata proper is a synthesis of Bachian counterpoint and Beethovian fury. The second theme offers a short-lived moment of respite and stasis before it is once more swept into the commotion and agony of human suffering. It is a rare example of Beethoven using fugal technique in an opening movement.

According to Richard Taruskin, the very utterance of “Beethoven” evokes the Romantic image of the furrowed-brow artist, alone in his contemplation of the sublime—a theme upon which Beethoven ponders and meditates in his second movement The glaring juxtaposition of this content with the rather deceptive title of “Arietta” (“Little Aria”), highlight an irony that is not uncommon is his late works. In the words of William Kinderman, the theme of this movement goes through a number of transfigurations. It undergoes a number of diminutions, evoking the compositional process which Beethoven used in the last variation of the third movement of his Op. 109 sonata. As the movement grows in ecstasy, it reaches a dynamic peak in the third variation, which bursts at the seams with an almost combustible energy. The note values increase steadily, leading to a trill. In the words of Maynard Solomon, it becomes “a shimmering sonic barrier that blurs any distinction between rapid movement and the depths of stasis.”András Schiff calls the return of the theme before the end a “Song of Thanksgiving.” We hear one final celestial utterance of it in the highest registers of the piano, already having been transmuted into the Kantian “starry skies.” Theodor Adorno writes of the ending as a “leave-taking.”

This piece was published twice in 1822: once in London by Muzio Clementi and dedicated to Antonie Brentano, and nearly simultaneously by Schlesinger and dedicated to Archduke Rudolf.

Franz Liszt: Sonata in B Minor, S. 178

Considered by many as his magnum opus, Liszt’s Sonata in B minor is exceptional in its content, scope, and architectural mastery. Alan Walker declares that it was “arguably one of the greatest keyboard works to come out of the nineteenth century. If Liszt had written nothing else, he would have to be ranked as a master on the strength of this work alone.” Unlike most of his other works, it does not contain programmatic descriptions, and the wide-ranging plethora of hermeneutic interpretations offered by pianists and other musicians alike are rendered insignificant when listed one after the other. Be it the Faustian legend, a depiction of the Garden of Eden, or an autobiographical sketch, the meaning intended by the composer was never revealed.

The appellation “Sonata” is significant. The piece functions as a sonata on two levels: locally and macrocosmically. Walker writes, “Not only are its four contrasting movements rolled into one, but they are themselves composed against a background of a full-scale sonata scheme—exposition, development, and recapitulation. . . . In short, Liszt has composed ‘a sonata across a sonata.’” Schubert's Wanderer Fantasie, which Liszt had come to know intimately as performer, arranger, and editor, would have certainly been influential on the structuring of this piece. The Wanderer Fantasie, too, contains four movements linked and unified by themes that undergo a change in character, otherwise known as “thematic transformation.” Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, more than any of his other works, is the greatest of his “transformation of themes.”

While having three primary leitmotifs (themes that recur throughout the piece, representing a specific idea), the sonata displays an astonishing degree of organicism. There is not one measure that is not deeply integrated with the rest of the work. With this in mind, the pianist Claudio Arrau once dubbed Liszt’s Sonata in B minor “Beethoven’s thirty-third piano sonata.”

It begins with a haunting introduction followed by a first theme consisting of two of the leitmotifs. The second theme, marked Grandioso, is everything the name implies. The slow movement is the work’s emotional center. The fugato third movement is astonishing in its role as the development section within the large-scale sonata form. According to manuscripts, Liszt had originally intended a loud, virtuosic ending, but later was inspired to opt for a sublimated, introspective finish.

Fifteen years earlier, in 1839, Robert Schumann had dedicated his Fantasie in C major, Op. 17, to Franz Liszt. As an open admirer of Schumann, Liszt did not feel until the completion of his Sonata in B minor that he had composed something worthy enough to reciprocate this gesture. Unfortunately, Schumann was never to see the score, as in 1853, when the work was completed, he had already been admitted to the asylum. Clara Schumann, who received it, thoroughly disliked it. Nonetheless, Liszt’s friend Richard Wagner wrote to the composer upon hearing it: “Dearest Franz, you were with me, the sonata is beautiful beyond comparison; great, sweet, deep and noble, sublime as you are yourself.”

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updated 2021