Photo © Bernd Jaworek
LTR: Kleo Sofroniou, General Manager Classics, DG; Gregor Kotow, LIU KOTOW International Management & Promotion; Angelika Meissner, Senior Director Classical, Artists & Repertoire, DG; Bruce Liu;
Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon; Leonie Petersen, Senior Product Manager, DG
Berlin, 29 March 2022. Deutsche Grammophon is delighted to mark World Piano Day by announcing the signing of an exclusive agreement with Bruce Liu. The 24-year-old Canadian pianist shot “from near obscurity to rock-star status in the classical music world” (The Globe and Mail) after winning the 18th International Chopin Piano Competition last autumn, since when his performances worldwide have been showered with critical acclaim. “[He] caused a sensation with a recital that married tradition with originality,” said ResMusica of his Paris debut at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in January. “You don’t always know where Bruce Liu is taking you, but you feel compelled to follow him.”
In October 2021 Bruce Liu became the first Canadian to win the Chopin Competition. Delayed by a year because of the pandemic, the 18th edition witnessed a particularly high level of playing. Having made the most of the lockdowns by both reading about Chopin and refreshing his musical palate with works by other composers, Liu continued thinking up new ideas about his interpretations until the very last minute backstage. He also chose not to listen to his fellow competitors, in order to focus on his own performances. His approach paid off – although he was the last of the twelve finalists to perform, the freshness of his reading of the Concerto in E minor won him a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.
Working in partnership with the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Deutsche Grammophon was soon able to issue an album of live recordings captured during the various stages of the competition. The release has earned rave reviews, with Gramophone calling it “one of the most distinguished Chopin recitals of recent years, full of maturity, character and purpose”, while Classics Today praised Liu’s “awesomely effortless virtuosity [which] consistently oozes charisma and insouciance”.
To mark his signing to the Yellow Label, Deutsche Grammophon will release Liu’s recording of Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor, KK IVa/16 as an e-single on 1 April. Further e-singles will follow throughout 2022, and the pianist is also now planning two future albums. One will have a French theme, with repertoire including Chopin and Rameau, reflecting Liu’s desire to explore the music of his birthplace and his personal connections with France. The second will feature Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No.2, the work with which he made his UK debut earlier this month (“There can’t be many pianists in the early stages of their international careers with that huge, daunting work in their repertoire, but apparently Liu has been playing it for a number of years, and the tireless confidence with which he launched into its cascades of figuration suggested an easy familiarity with it.” The Guardian)
“I’m thrilled to be joining DG – I love its sense of family!” says Bruce Liu. “I hope becoming part of that family will give me plenty of opportunities to collaborate with some very talented artists from different musical fields and backgrounds, as well as working with the great team who produced my Chopin Competition album. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
“We’re very excited to welcome Bruce to the Yellow Label,” adds Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “The Chopin Competition and all the concerts he has given since have shown the world an intelligent and dynamic young artist whose pianism, imagination and spontaneity are simply electrifying. He joins fellow Canadian artists Emily D’Angelo, Jan Lisiecki and Yannick Nézet-Séguin here at DG – proof, if such were needed, that Canada today is clearly a hotbed of musical talent.”
Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu was born to Chinese parents in Paris in 1997, and moved with his father to Montreal at the age of six. He speaks fluent Mandarin and grew up surrounded by Chinese culture, but is also quick to acknowledge the influences of his North American upbringing as well as those of the history and musical traditions of Europe. Between 2011 and 2018 he studied with Richard Raymond at the Montreal Conservatoire, during which time he won the grand prize at the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal Competition aged just 15. That success spurred him on to pursue a career as a pianist. He is currently a student of Dang Thai Son (winner of the 10th Chopin Competition). Liu is determined not to be overwhelmed by the demands of touring and performing, and sets time aside to enjoy pastimes such as swimming, chess, karting, cinema, jazz and history. As he explains, “It’s really the balance between all my hobbies that drives me to make music in a fresher way.”