Wednesday, July 16, 2008 St Olave’s, Hart Street, London EC3
Reviewed by Robert Matthew-Walker
From time to time rumours circulate about an artist that are so compelling that he or she must be heard. Such is the case with Li-Chun Su, who has recently emerged as one of Germany’s most impressive young pianists. Last year, she won first prize in both the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Artur Schnabel Competitions, and – also remarkably – she is equally at home playing the fortepiano, harpsichord and the pianoforte.
St Olave’s, in the heart of the City of London, is one of the oldest churches in the area, there having been one on this site since at least 1080 – Samuel Pepys and his wife are buried there. The acoustics are first-rate, enabling an important series of lunchtime and evening programmes to be given in such historic surroundings. It proved an excellent venue for the London debut of Li-Chun Su, a recital which closed the church’s Summer Concert Season, and which at once demonstrated that reports of her artistry were not misplaced, for she is clearly a wholly exceptional pianist.
Her account of Beethoven’s Opus 101 was superlative, flawless in technique and comprehensive intelligent musicianship; this was one of the finest performances of this work I have heard in over 50 years of regular concert-going.The contrasted and contrasting Mendelssohn pieces that followed were both outstandingly well played, Li-Chun Su’s grasp of structure, tonal coloration, chording, part-playing and characterisation all being really admirable.Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit found this extraordinary artist on very different musical ground, and she rose to the technical and interpretative difficulties of the work in magnificent fashion. After her spellbinding account of the final movement, ‘Scarbo’, she showed her command of the Spanish idiom of Albéniz’s El Albaicín.A short set of variations by Czerny served as her encore, proving that she is a finished artist of very high calibre, thoroughly at home in a very wide range of repertoire.