AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
With Brilliant Concert Pianist 
ANDREW LI  
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By Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy: The Steinway Society

Silicon Valley -- After winning FIRST PRIZE  in the Bay State Piano Competition for young students in Boston for five consecutive years, at the ages from 7 to 12 years old; a second FIRST PRIZE piano competion for two consecutive years at the STEINWAY COMPETITION in Boston; joining his older brother in a performance at a recital series in Utica College, giving his first piano recital at the First Presbyterian Church in Utica New York when he was 10 years old, and winning more prizes in piano competitions which included: another FIRST PRIZE in the Boston Symphony Orchestra youth contest competition, a SECOND PRIZE at the Hilton Head International piano competition, a THIRD Prize in the Minessota Piano-e-competion and in April 1918 another First Prize at the Harvard Music Association Achivement Awards, ANDREW LI will be presenting his keyboard mastery at the STEINWAY SOCIETY the Bay Area, HOME CONCERT HALL that will be presented (online) from  January 22 to January 25, 2021.

In a telephone interview from Boston, Cultural World Bilingual interviewed the young artist with the purpose to introduce him to Classical Music lovers in the West Coast.

C.W.B.   How old were you when you started playing piano?
A.L.: "When I was six years old. When I was five, my mother approached me and asked me if I wanted to start learning to play the piano, but I wasn't interested at that time, but a year later, because my older brother, who was nine, was taking piano lessons and I have a very competitive spirit, I decided to start taking piano lessons too, because I wanted to be just like him. That's was what gave me the drive to start learning to play the piano, and later on, the inspiration to continue learning."  

C.W.B. To what do you attribute your winning the First Prize for five consecutive years in piano competitions, since you were seven years old?
A.L. "To my teacher. She helped me with my technique, put in my mind the ability to understand the music, and taught me the discipline in playing. I also think that a lot of it also came from my mom, who sat with me, when I was playing, when I was very young. She was my "TUTOR" and she also taught me how to select the musical pieces which set my level for future successes."

C.W.B. Did you, at any time, consider to become a Concert Pianist?
A.L  "That's a very great question," he says obviously laughing, "But the answer is no. When I was growing up, I had many different passions I was interested in reading books about science, and biology, so my only goal in playing music was to surpass my brother.

C.W.B. Did you eventually fall in love with music?
A.L. "Yes. But that came later and it was a combination of 'understanding' the music, a little bit, and attending concerts, which is what actually made me fall in love with music, because after that, I began finding performance music that I loved listening to. As my love for music grew, I began expanding the range of the music, including symphonies and different orchestral works to the piano music. There was also a period of time when I played the violin, (in his high school orchestra) and being able to experience a different instrument  helped me love music even more."

C.W.B.  Who is your favorite composer, and why?
A.L. When I first started playing, I liked very loud and showy pieces with technical difficulties so my favorite composer was Franz Liszt. Now; I just calmed down a bit and appreciate more miracle pieces, deeper and less rash, so, at the moment I love listening to Beethoven and Chopin and I also enjoy Schubert because I am able to deal with his harmonies and amazing well crafted music which is very beautiful, in my mind."

C.W.B. What is music for you?
A.L. "I compare music to literature because it tries to convey the emotions and experiences of a person, but it differs from literature because instead of words, uses sounds, and the difficulty of it is that we, the musicians, have to convey these feelings, these stories, these emotions, with our instruments, without using words, but using our technique, our expression, our touch. That is the real difficulty in playing music because, sometimes, is extremely hard to do, and why I am trying to do when I play: To tell a story, without using words."

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C.W.B. As a performer, what is the composer whose music really touches you, and why?
A.L. "Beethoven. And that is because his music becomes freer, and exposes feeling. It is intellectually, demanding (for the pianist) but I find it enjoyable, in my mind."

C.W.B. Reading your program, I see that in your concert you have Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Stravinsky; could you tell us something about the works you will play?
A.L.:"Starting with Beethoven, Six Variations for piano in F Major, and Brahms, Variations on a theme of Paganini, (O.35) in the first part of my program, I will be playing  these sets of  themes and variations, that in my mind, and in the Beethoven's mind, are like a singing, lyrical and simple melody. But what I think gives meaning to this piece is that each variation has its particular "territory" and expresses a different scene: anywhere from being a dance, to being a funeral march, and all originating from one simple theme. That's what I find so amazing in the Beethoven piece."

"As for the Brahms work, it is all based in this very famous melody Caprice in the Key of A minor, which consists on a theme and 11 variations, which I think that everybody had encounter before., And in this piece, what I find so interesting and magical about it, is that it is based like a piece of poetry, in technical music capacity, but it is not all brash and loud chords. This piece can also be light and delicate and singing and warm. So, I feel that in Brahms's variations, he actually put his signature, because it has so much depth in its harmonies. I think that this musical and harmonic sight comes true when the piece is heard, but only when themusician performs this piece properly."

"In doing the 'Polonaise Fantaisie in A Flat minor', I want the audience to understand that this is a piece with a "double personality" which forces the interpreter to conveytwo sides: a more majestic, expressive and flexible side, and a more bouncy and danceable one. Both of these characteristics have to be conveyed to the audience (by the interpreter) to show them how Chopin conveys them, in just one piece. (That, technical, is two pieces)."

"And the three movements of Stravinsky 'Pétroushka' are sort of a piece which is a transcription of the ballet by the same name. And it is based on the character of a puppet that is brought to live by a magician. The first two movements are based on the magician following the puppet (which he believes is a real woman) and the third movements, takes the zoom out. So, the difficult on this piece, is that one has to interpret all these different emotions in the piano piece:  the loudness of the fights, the other dancers in the market place, and even the orchestra and the character of Petroushka and the other puppets. " It is very difficult.

C.W.B. Before we finish our interview, do you have anything to say to your virtual audience?
A.L: "Yes. My message to my virtual audience is to try to keep well.  That I know that it has been a very difficult time for everyone and that I hope that my energy, and my passion in my music, brings them happiness and restores some normalcy to their lives, for at least an hour."

TICKETS FOR THE CONCERT ARE ONLY $20.00 Per Household. To Order tickets for the concert go to: Steinwaysociety.com

For questions about the concert, contact their box office (408) 300-5635. Please remember that because of the pandemic, The Steinway Society The Bay Area is also relying in on your generosity and accepting contribution.