Classical music blog, George Li, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Lucas Debargue, piano, piano blog, piano competition, Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition

George Li, among 6 Tchaikovsky Competition Finalists

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As many cheering fans had expected, George Li catapulted himself into the Finals with a memorable performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A, K. 488.

Reed Tetzloff not having the same good fortune to make the cut, still delivered a moving reading of the soulful middle movement, K. 488.

A noticeable audience favorite at this competition has been French pianist, Lucas Debargue whose artistry is uniquely introspective and Old World–a contrast from players heard to date in all rounds.

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What amounts to a cult-like following surrounds Debargue in response to his Medtner and Ravel performances which had mystical qualities.

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Seymour Bernstein was so moved, he sent an email to his list of followers celebrating Debarge’s artistry!

“First, the Medtner is unbelievable! But I doubt that anyone will ever hear Ravel’s Gaspard performed like this. The French pianist Lucas Debargue must be a another world. Simply the most miraculous playing. Perhaps because of this alone he may win the competition.”

While I appreciated the trance-like playing of Debargue in his Round 2 recital, I found his Bach, and Beethoven, op. 10 no. 3, Round 1, to lack definition and tonal brightness. He seemed focused on a big intellectual dimension without finite detail. Often he skimmed the surface of the keys in the Baroque and Classical era works, while his illusory approach seemed better suited to late Romantic and Impressionist era composers. (A Ravel-inspired color palette was very appealing)

Many Debargue followers showcased his reading of Mozart’s C minor concerto with its dark, foreboding dimension, well fleshed out by the Frenchman, while I hurriedly revisited Murray Perahia’s performance with its more diversely lyrical and emotional contrasts.

The List of Finalists

Sergey Redkin
Geroge Li
Lucas Debargue
Lukas Genusias
Daniel Kharitonov
Dmitry Masleev

The final round that resumes June 28th will include Tchaikovsky, Liszt and Prokofiev concertos.


REPLAY, George Li’s Recital, Round One:

Flashback to my interview with George Li in 2012:

8 thoughts on “George Li, among 6 Tchaikovsky Competition Finalists”

  1. It’s interesting to see how cultural backgrounds shape the way these unbelievably talented pianists play. I couldn’t help watch Debargue going through Liszt 2 and Tchaikovsky 1 waiting for something unexpected, of spiritual dimension maybe, to happen. I watched George Li’s performance not with the same desire to be surprised but anyway amazed by the quality of his playing: strong, healthy, galvanizing, so determined. His Prokofiev was incredible. However, Occidental music is so rooted in christianity, that when a pianist pops out on the international scene with a dimension of “sacrifice” in his music, such as I hear in Debargue’s playing (Medtner and Ravel were indeed unique), something else happens, something almost magic, beyond music I would say. Considering the context of this very unique international competition, I think Li’s performance in the finale should make him win (though I didn’t hear the performances of all the contestants), because it was objectively healthier, more solid, clearer, and always with such a beautiful tone (Debargue is better on a Yamaha it seems) in many ways whereas it was obvious Debargue was at the extreme of his technique and concentration. Debargue stands as my pianist “de coeur”, for all that he has shown (and at a very young age) of the very process of piano playing at that level with all the historical, spiritual, emotional aspects that are contained in music and that we cannot fully see. But as a frenchman of course I’m biased !!!


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