Decca Classics is thrilled to release the new album from Australian-Chinese violinist Christian Li. Having topped the UK Classical Charts with his debut album in 2021 (with which he became the youngest artist ever to record Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) the award-winning musician releases his second album, entitled ‘Discovering Mendelssohn’.
Here, Christian Li follows the journeys of Felix Mendelssohn – whose music was influenced by travel throughout his life – by recording pieces the composer wrote in Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Munich, London and Venice, including some brand-new arrangements written especially for the violinist.
At the heart of the album is Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, recorded with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) under Sir Andrew Davis, to stunning effect. Talking about the unique cadenza in the first movement Li explains, “I wanted to try and follow what is in the score … I also tried to create mysterious atmospheres, experimenting with dynamic and contour and pacing, to make it sound interesting and more like an improvisation.” Whether it is the intense drama heard in the racing close of the first movement or thoughtfulness in the final Allegretto, there is sensitivity between soloist and ensemble.”
Throughout the album filled with pieces inspired by Mendelssohn’s love of travel, Christian invites several artists to collaborate. The album’s first single – ‘On Wings of Song’ from 6 Songs Op.34 – features players from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in a stunning new arrangement for violin and chamber ensemble. ”This was the first time I’ve played with a harp,” says Li, “It was wonderful – the sound is so tender and almost magical, and combines perfectly with the violin”.
It is clear that Li, who is now 15, feels an affinity for Mendelssohn, something that can be heard in the sprightly Rondo Capriccioso op. 14, recorded here in a new arrangement for violin and piano. “Mendelssohn wrote this piece while he was teenager like me,” says Li. “It’s all about lyricism and virtuosity.” Something that – along with tremendous technique and emotional depth – Li has in spades.
From Mendelssohn’s collection of Songs Without Words Op.62, Li selects two – both presented in new arrangements. In the Venetian Gondola Song (written 1830-1841) Mendelssohn, who was captivated by the traditional flat-bottomed rowing boats, managed to recreate gentle sculling across twinkling canals. While the original pieces were written for solo piano, Li’s recording features a duet for violin and guitar, exquisitely performed here by Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang where, as Li explains, “We wanted to recreate the scenes and sounds that he would have heard.”
The second piece from the collection is Spring Song, which was written during Mendelssohn’s stay in London in 1842. For Melbourne-based Li who, like Mendelssohn, enjoys visiting new places while performing “The melody is beautifully light and flowing” he says, “You can imagine going for a walk, and sensing fresh new life in the air.”
The album also features music from Mendelssohn’s own inspirations and contemporaries, including J. S. Bach, Mozart and Schubert. Mendelssohn’s early admiration of Mozart is reflected in the inclusion of the joyful and contemplative Violin Sonata No 21 in E Minor, featured alongside Schubert’s Serenade and Erbarme dich by JS Bach.
About Christian Li:
Born in Melbourne in 2007, Christian first picked up a violin aged five. He captured international attention in 2018 when he became the youngest-ever winner of the Menuhin Competition, winning the joint Junior 1st Prize in Geneva where he play-conducted a movement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Performing with the Geneva Chamber Orchestra, he also received the Audience Prize and the Composer Award.
Soon after, in 2020, Christian became the youngest artist ever to sign with Decca Classics. His debut album featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons accompanied by works for violin and piano by Bazzini, Kreisler, Massenet and Li Zilli was released in August 2021 gathering five-star reviews. BBC Music Magazine wrote: “He brings thrilling virtuosity and myriad colours to Vivaldi’s fast movements and an exquisitely silky cantabile sound to the aria-like slow movements”.
In concerts, Christian made a series of acclaimed debuts including with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, as well as gave recitals in Israel, Norway and the UK. Currently he is featured as Young Artist in Association with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for a period of three years during which he performs a range of concertos, chamber music and recitals. In recent and upcoming season he also makes several orchestral debuts including with Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand, Oslo Philharmonic in Norway, Gavle Symphony in Sweden, Aalborg Symphony in Denmark, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in the UK.
Christian performs on the 1737 ex-Paulsen Guarneri del Gesù violin, on loan from a generous benefactor and uses a bow by François Peccatte. He currently studies with Dr. Robin Wilson at the Yehudi Menuhin School in London and enjoys reading, swimming and bike riding in his free time.