Prodigy dazzles in library show
by Geraldine Freedman, Schenectady NY Daily Gazette
January 17, 2010

NISKAYUNA -- Musical prodigies are marvelous to behold, and 14-year-old Boston pianist George Li has been especially graced by the gods. On Saturday afternoon at the Niskayuna branch library as part of the Young Musicians Forum, Li gave a sensational program before an overflow and rapt audience. Perched on the edge of the piano stool to allow him to reach the pedals, Li ripped off technical passages with a quicksilver ease, arched the melodies with the expressivity and soul of a romantic poet and knocked off one masterpiece after another like an artist decades older.

What impressed the most, however, was his touch. It was as gentle and light as an angel's kiss. Li never seemed to strike the keys as to caress them and always imbued each note with its own nuance. His control level was so high that bolstered with his sparklingly light fingerwork, he could color his dynamic levels and articulations with a marvelous sensitivity.

Li chose a program that emphasized these talents. He began with Carl Czerny's rarely heard Variations on a Theme by Rode "La Ricordanza," Op. 33. Czerny is known to most piano students for his intricate scale studies. But in this piece, it was all melody cast in various styles, which Li played with obvious relish.

His Beethoven Sonata Op. 27, No. 2 ("Moonlight") was a romantic read. He played the slow, undulating first movement so softly it was like a distant glimmer of moonlight on placid waters. Yet his consistency at the same dynamic level created a mesmerizing effect. The second movement was light and easy before the finale exploded at a furiously fast pace.

Chopin's Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante Op. 22 had all the perfumes of the salon. Well played melodies, color and grand gestures were coupled with individual moments of rubato of sudden daring that provided exquisite changes of direction.

Two selections from Ravel's "Miroirs" showed Li's control of color. "Sad Bird" was full of greens and blues; "Alborada Del Gracioso" leapt with vibrant reds and golds. More virtuosity followed in three selections from Liszt's "Venezia e Napoli" with each having its own atmosphere and Li's musical thought ever evident.

Fervent applause brought three encores.

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